Hind Essoussi is chairman of North West London Conservative Future.
Following the untimely death of long-standing Conservatvie councillor, Arthur Steel, on New Year's Day, a by-election has been called in Brent’s Kenton ward for February 17th. In anticipation, the Kenton Ward has been transformed into a political battleground, with active campaigning by the various candidates very much underway.
The Brent Conservatives have selected as their candidate Suresh Kansagra (pictured). A competent successor to the long-serving and dedicated Cllr. Steel, Suresh has been locally engaged for 36 years and is a highly-esteemed figure within the community. He has a keen appreciation of the needs and priorities of the local residents having acted as the Director of the Kadwa Patidar Centre in Kenton for the past twenty years.
Speaking recently to the Harrow Times, he cited the planned closure of six of Brent’s twelve libraries and the cuts orchestrated by Brent Council’s Labour administration as the most important concerns of the local residents. Having previously served as a councillor in the neighbouring Barnhill Ward, Suresh also has the benefit of twelve years of local government experience, which will greatly assist in holding the Labour-dominated council to account and in ensuring that the interests of the Kenton locality are effectively championed.
A decisive Conservative victory is crucial in the Kenton by-election. An extremely marginal seat at present, only five of the 63 seats in the Brent Council are held by the Conservatives. But a decisive victory will do more than just bolster Conservative influence in the Brent Council. This by-election will be an important indicator of voter intentions ahead of the 2012 Mayoral election.
Polls demonstrate a marked disconnect between the Government’s popularity and that of the London Mayor, Boris Johnson. His outspoken views may have brought him into conflict with the Government on such issues as the housing benefit cuts, but they reflect his enthusiasm to ensure that the unique character of London is safeguarded in the face of the cuts agenda. In October 2010 a ComRes survey, the first poll conducted since Boris Johnson’s confirmation as the Conservative candidate, placed him on 44% and Livingstone on 35%. While the poll put him at a 9% advantage over Livingstone, the same poll placed Labour 3% ahead of the Conservatives on general election voting intentions. What the poll exemplifies is that Johnson’s personal appeal almost transcends party political lines and that his popularity has remained at a consistent level.
Thus, drawing on Mayor Johnson’s achievements in the Brent area whilst campaigning on Suresh’s behalf will be a crucial way to neutralise any hostility towards the Conservatives on the Kenton doorsteps. Against the backdrop of the fact that there are no Conservative Parliamentarians in Brent (Brent North and Hampstead & Kilburn are both Labour seats and Brent Central is held by the Liberal Democrats), it will be important to underscore Mayor Johnson’s proven track record of bringing about improvements for the residents of Brent.
His achievements for the area are numerous and, as cited on the BackBoris2012 website, include extending Oysterised overground rail services in Brent, planting 170 street trees in the Neasden area and providing 1,286 more affordable homes. Further, 104,338 Brent households have financially benefited as a result of the Mayor freezing City Hall’s share of the Council Tax bill. He has also delivered an additional 14 police officers on to the beat in the area and since his election there has been a 12% decrease in youth violence in Brent.
However, a victory in this by-election will only be possible through the hard work and support of our Conservative activists and volunteers. The regional London Conservative Future team led by Chairman Nicolas Clark and Deputy Chairman (Political) Einy Shah – has organised a Super Saturday campaign day for this coming Saturday, February 12th, and we will be joined by Syed Kamall MEP and Bob Blackman MP.