This is how I introduced my post election match report for Conservative Home back in 2006:
Ealing is called the bellwether borough as its local election results have prefigured the national polls for 10 of 11 general elections since the borough was formed. On 4th May the Borough's Tories achieved a swing of over 10% from Labour to Conservative. The Labour Group went down from 48 to 29, the Lib-Dems lost a seat to reduce their tiny group to 3 and 20 new Tory councillors marched into the council chamber. Our young, energetic leader, Jason Stacey rubbed his eyes and found himself leader of the council.
Since then the council has been called “populist” and “solid” by commentators, voted the UK’s “Best Achieving Council” at the Municipal Journal’s awards and been judged a four star authority by the Audit Commission.
Throughout there has been a clear focus on three priorities: cleaner streets, safer communities, value for money. The council has measurably delivered on these promises so canvassing is very easy. Most opposition supporters have to concede we have done what we said we would do and in the absence of any significant mis-steps there are few gripes on the doorstep.
People have noticed the improvements we have made in street cleaning, recycling, graffiti removal, etc and they can see them every time they go out. They are not quite so aware of the extra 45 police and PCSOs we pay for – it takes much longer to change perceptions of public safety. With two below inflation council tax rises and a two-year freeze people can see the difference there too.
Another big change has been the focusing of capital spending on people’s doorsteps. Whenever canvassing gets a bit sticky all you need to do is point out the new road surface or street lighting or the newly planted street tree behind you to get the conversation back on track.
Ealing is a big, diverse borough with over 300,000 people. The Tory group knows it has a good story to tell but is assuming it has to fight hard for every council seat. We don’t intend to go backwards.
The borough includes three parliamentary constituencies. Ealing Central and Acton looks very winnable with the likeable and capable Angie Bray looking like more than a match for her inexperienced Labour opposite number. Ealing North will be a tough nut to crack for Deputy Group Leader Ian Gibb with sitting Labour MP Stephen Pound having spent most of his time over the last four years campaigning when he isn’t on air making jokes. Ian can at least show some achievements for his last four years which is more than Pound can say.
The Ealing Southall seat is the hardest nut to crack for our candidate Gurcharan Singh. He needs to unseat fellow Southall councillor Virendra Sharma who was 5,000 votes ahead of the Lib Dems at the 2007 by-election and 7,000 votes ahead of the Tories. Sharma does himself no honour by clinging to his council seat and claiming his allowance whilst failing to turn up to any meetings beyond one every six months so that he can qualify to collect his money.
To sum up there are a lot of very busy Tories in Ealing and we expect to provide some good news stories on May 6th/7th for the party.
Picture shows Angie Bray and Jason Stacey campaigning with Ken Clarke. The Ealing Council Conservative Manifesto is available here.