Cllr Tony Devenish is a Westminster City Councillor and has applied to be a London Assembly candidate.
In September, London Conservative Party Members are likely to select the men and women who next May will be on a ballot paper alongside the Party’s candidate for Mayor of London. ConservativeHome and the entire media are more interested in who will replace Boris than who may be responsible for holding the Mayor to account. Even those of us ‘throwing our hats in the ring’ as potential London Assembly candidates agree with that.
But after nearly 16 years’ of the London Assembly, here are “seven lessons learned” for prospective London Assembly candidates.
1. You are only likely to be a household name in your own household.
Then, slowly and by being diligent, within your own communities and, I’d like to think, the ConservativeHome readership. Local MPs, councillors, the Mayor and Ministers are rightly our high profile political leaders.
2. Champion the local (there is no conflict which cannot be resolved – put residents first while being both pro-business and pro-visitor).
Be a team player and support others. Conservative Association democracy is a theme of ConservativeHome which as a Londoner and a Party Member since Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister I wholeheartedly support. London Assembly Members play an unsung role in bringing CCHQ and the party grassroots together (it doesn’t have to end up as a ‘splits’ story). London Assembly Members can really help by working with our councillors, council candidates and residents’ associations and MPs to make a difference.
3. Pick issues that matter to Londoners and our very different multiple ‘urban villages’.
Transport, crime and strategic planning are the main responsibilities of the Mayor. But how they affect constituents is varied. I love my constituency post bag, which involves solving real issues.
4. Be positive.
Boris’s joie de vivre contrasts with the Luddite outlook of the London Labour Party. If Jeremy Corbyn is the answer even the BBC knows in its heart the wrong question is being asked. A 2016 Conservative London Assembly can build on Boris’s legacy. Tessa Jowell is the danger – the only Labour figure who ‘gets it’.
5. The agenda for whoever is Mayor is jobs, homes, crime and security.
London will become more popular and, yes, more busy. But we can create more jobs and build more homes without encroaching on the greenbelt (read Andrew Adonis on public sector brownfield land) and without damaging the quality of life of all Londoners. It won’t be easy: Crossrail, as just one example, will drop thousands more people on a given area. By listening to residents we can minimise the impact. As a London Councillor I know that TFL and the Met will listen (yes, really) if you persist.
6. When you apply for a role, look at those who have done it before, in as many ways as London is diverse.
James Cleverly visited each community, listened and fought the militants in the Fire Brigade. Tony Arbour shows that grassroots politics can be decent, helping the Lib Dems recreate the Monty Python Dead Parrot Sketch (please, ConservativeHome, no more articles being nice to the Lib Dems). Victoria Borwick illustrates that decent people can get on in politics and deliver for residents. Kit Malthouse stood up to a discredited Met Commissioner. Angie Bray tenaciously fought Ken Livingstone every day for eight years. Apologies to those I’ve missed out.
7. Finally, always remember: we work for you.