Chris Grayling is Leader of the House of Commons, and MP for Epsom and Ewell.
The starting gun has been fired. The campaign is afoot. The teams have taken to the streets for the start of the run up to the vote. No, I don’t mean the EU referendum, though that will take up plenty of time in the coming weeks – our first priority will, and should, be the various elections on May 5th.
It is a crucial time for our country with Mayoral, Scottish, Welsh, Police and Crime Commissioner and many local government elections. These important offices have serious responsibilities and affect local people’s lives every day. Which is why now is the time to show what Conservatives have been able to achieve, so far, in communities across these isles and to make the case for how we can continue to make life better up and down the country.
This weekend I visited John Lamont and his team in the Borders, and the determination to get him re-elected was tremendous. As the Prime Minister said this weekend “now it’s clear we’re the only party of the Union”, and it is with that vigour that we will present our case to hold the SNP to account. There is a very real chance of Conservatives doing better than Labour in Scotland, winning constituencies when Labour is expected to lose all of its ones. The same is true in Wales where the Labour’s abysmal record on the NHS is having dire consequences with them missing their A&E target for seven years now and with over 27,000 patients having waited more than 36 weeks for treatment, when the target is supposed to be zero.
For me some of these battles have a personal edge. In London, Labour’s Sadiq Khan cannot be allowed to become Mayor. He shadowed me for two years in the last Parliament, so I saw his weaknesses at first hand. This is a man who put Corbyn onto the ballot paper for Labour members. As if that wasn’t proof enough of his poor judgement one of his campaign aides has been suspended after revelations of racism, homophobia and making light of violence.
Sadiq doesn’t do consensus politics; he would be incapable of working collaboratively with ministers on behalf of London. This is in stark contrast to Zac Goldsmith, who gets London and knows how to work closely with Government to deliver the right outcomes that Londoners need. His campaign to start fixing London’s housing crisis by doubling home building to 50,000 a year by 2020 and improving the capacity and reliability of London’s transport system by ensuring the Night Tube goes ahead, starting Crossrail 2, and growing the rail network are just a couple of areas where his ideas will make a difference to people’s lives.
Likewise, I really want to see a new Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) in Surrey. The current incumbent has not been able to take a grip of this vital role. In fact, policing in Surrey has suffered for his presence, which is why I will continue to work to ensure that David Munro gets the job instead this May. Some of us have had the privilege of seeing first-hand the difference these new elected representatives can make. Communities like Katy Bourne’s in Sussex and Matthew Ellis’ in Staffordshire deserve the chance to continue to benefit from the work of these two outstanding PCCs. Katy’s engagement with young people is inspirational. Another PCC candidate, Les Jones, who I joined on the campaign trail two weeks ago in Stourbridge, would be a much better voice for the West Midlands. He is fighting to spend money better and protect local services – at a time when Labour is more interested in the central areas they represent. They all have one thing in common: they realise how policing can be connected back to the communities they seek to represent and, they are all capable of looking after the sizeable local policing budgets.
Every battle, every Conservative, every campaign, needs your activism and energy to support candidates to the winning line this May. Not only can we make our case to the electorate and set out the exciting practical steps we will deliver, but we can also make it a good time of year for Britain’s shoe retailers, as soles are worn out around the country. Indeed we need to keep Labour and Corbyn on the back foot. Their few wise heads are demoralised at the moment, unsure about how to deal with the chaos that the Corbyn leadership is generating. We have seen in the past how crazy left wing views have destroyed local authorities and undermined local communities. There is a new generation of Labour activists and candidates out there who cannot be allowed to gain a foothold in local government.
The increasingly extreme policies of the Labour Party pose a real threat to the economic security of communities around the country. In May we must stop them in their tracks.