This week a year ago, I came within 15 votes of being elected the first Conservative councillor in the London Borough of Newham in 16 years. Needless to say, the Party has not given up in Royal Docks.
Last week, I was canvassing in Roebourne Way in North Woolwich. An elderly lady who could barely walk came to the door. As I introduced myself and started making my point, she stopped me. ‘Darling, you needn’t have bothered knocking. I’ve voted Labour for 60 years and me and me’ ‘usband are voting Tory for the Government and for the Council for the first time ever.’ Being a working-class lad myself, I appreciated the concerns she went onto express. Further down in Grenadier Street in Silvertown, a former Labour Party member told me ‘Good God, I so hope you win. I delivered leaflets for Labour in this area for decades but they’ve ruined our country. They’re not socialist, they’re not anything. I so hope you win’. Neither had voted in the byelection.
A well-heeled guy in Fitzwilliam Mews, West Silvertown admitted that he had voted Labour in the by-election but had felt cheated by the poor outcome. A Nigerian lady in Church Street, North Woolwich bemoaned ‘I voted for them last year, wanting change with them, but nothing has improved.’ She admitted that she had wanted to vote Conservative last year, but wanted to see if one last chance with Labour would make them realise what needed to be done.
This is the experience of fellow Royal Dockers, Dr Lionel Etan-Adollo and Cloey Wong (pictured.) who were selected to stand with me as Conservative candidates on May 6th and what a team to work with. Passionate and with drive, we approach the local elections this year with a record of community action under our belt and a litany of broken Labour promises at hand. We are constantly reminding people that voting Labour in Royal Docks one more time, is going to be a grave mistake.
We have worked flat-out to provide solutions for the problems of the people of Royal Docks and although we are not elected councillors, people trust us enough to approach us to get things rectified as if we were their own elected members. At the moment we are working from the outside, but we hope on May 7th, we shall have the power to do business from the inside.
Last Autumn, we launched a Reclaim Our Streets campaign following an unprecedented period of violent muggings, arson attempts, criminal damage and assaults. Labour sat on their hands for months before addressing the issue. In that time we had collected a dossier of the violence and presented it to the Deputy Mayor of London calling for pressure on our borough commander to provide swift remedy. We did at least force the authorities to do something. However, the problem has re-emerged. In a week where young women have been mugged, Labour chose an inopportune time to herald the success of an unpoliced dispersal zone. So, our Crime Manifesto has been launched for a radical overhaul of our local policing priorities and the way local agencies work together in dealing with what happens on our streets.
We have met with and forced a local industrial company to update its machinery to prevent sugar resin being churned out over the area, argued the case against certain inappropriate developments; we’ve taken up issues on fly-tipping, illegal building, improving lighting, to clearing up litter, bringing garages back to use and taking up queries about the quality of council house repairs and fighting for extra cash for a local charity; we are lobbying Transport for London for a re-routing of a crucial bus service to a shopping area, extra carriages on the local DLR and the provision of river boat services for our area to alleviate congestion. You name the place in Royal Docks and we are fighting for something, for someone.
A year-on, many people are thinking. Labour’s pledges in that by-election have become as hollow and as bald as Gordon Brown’s ‘guarantees’ – their promises of a new surgery, more CCTV, an improved bus service, controlled parking zones, a stop to the stench of a local factory, have borne no fruition. They have delivered nothing but a fireworks display and a pedestrian crossing. Pretty sad, for an area overwhelmed with issues of neglect.
However, it looks likely that Royal Docks will be going to the polls on the same day as a General Election and the fight will once again be a Battle Royal. Lionel, Cloey and I are under no illusions about the scale of the task and that is what drives us. For the sake of the future of our area, we stand committed to the fact that only we, as Conservatives, can offer the leadership Royal Docks so desperately needs.