Nowhere in London is the message ‘time for change’ more resonant than in Greenwich. In the 46 years since the Borough was formed on its current boundaries in 1964, it has been controlled by Labour for 43 of them, with only a brief spell of Conservative control from 1968 to 1971. The ethos of a one-party state infests the Council and is manifested most visibly in the Pravda-esque propaganda sheet Greenwich Time, a weekly ‘free newspaper’ which is of course neither free (costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands a year), nor a newspaper.
It never carries comment or views from the other parties on the Council, and has built up a worrying cult of personality around the Council Leader, Chris Roberts. This reached its zenith (or nadir) when the announcement that HM The Queen will grant us Royal Borough status in Her Diamond Jubilee year was announced with a picture on the front page of – Councillor Roberts.
The arrogance of too long in power shows itself in other, more serious ways. Labour trumpet partial funding for long-overdue repairs to council houses as though it wasn’t them who neglected tenants in the first place. They rightly celebrate our status as an Olympic host borough, but leave sporting and recreational facilities in disrepair. Most damningly, they have presided over the decline of our Borough’s school standards, with Greenwich slipping to the bottom of London league tables, and thousands of children not getting the start in life they need and should expect. That scandal alone makes a convincing case for proper change with radical Conservative policies to improve our schools.
We currently have 13 Councillors against Labour’s 36, so beating them here seems a tall order. But when voters last went to the polls for the Mayoral election in 2008, Boris Johnson narrowly beat Labour in the popular vote across the Borough – a remarkable achievement which hasn’t been widely noted.
So we are fighting to win. We have energetic candidates across the Borough, and the combination of the General and local elections has reinforced our joined-up campaign. The Leader of our group on the Council, Spencer Drury, is standing for Parliament against Nick Raynsford in Greenwich & Woolwich, whilst in Eltham David Gold is fighting Clive Efford for a seat which we need to win for David Cameron to get to Downing Street. We all know we have the chance to achieve an historic double: Throwing out a tired Labour Government and ending four decades of Labour failure in Greenwich.