Tony Devenish is London Assembly Member for Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, and the City of Westminster.
Talk to London Conservatives, post 8th June, and we are pretty bruised. The 2017 General Election result (with no London Manifesto) , followed on from last year’s Mayoral defeat, the divisive EU Referendum, and we even lost in London to Ed Miliband at the 2015 General Election. Another election next year, Brenda will go ape …..
But enough glumness. There is huge hope for the future if we get out and sell our achievements. We have a little over 30 weeks until next May’s crunch London Borough elections – if we are ready by September. While many people vote at local elections according to their view on the Government of the day, Londoners are a sophisticated electorate, and many do vote on Borough matters.
No one else is going to defend our record of public service. We must get Conservative council candidates elected: the bedrock for future General Election success. No one can lie like London Labour – big simple lies.
But in London we Conservatives do have more activists than elsewhere and the majority of our activists are borough councillors, candidates, or wish to be. There are encouraging signs that London Conservative MPs, borough leaders, and the voluntary Party are coming together.
Each Borough needs to refine its own message – with CCHQ supporting a narrative, and not overdoing the ”support”.
I would argue each Borough has to sell five messages (in their own way):
1. A proven record of delivery – quality public services and affordable council tax. Contrast this with, say, Labour Camden where Tory voting areas have had their rubbish collections cut in half. Labour’s Hammersmith & Fulham u-turned on a similar policy thanks to a local Conservative led fight-back.
2. Support for education. We need to counter the NUT’s General Election scaremongering where teachers wrote home to parents complaining of school meals and school funding ”cuts”. Conservative boroughs actively support our schools and colleges and champion improved exam results. Shout about it.
3. Housing. We need to ”show and tell’ our record of building homes, being robust in encouraging our officers to dispose of surplus land and buildings (to build more homes) and insist social landlords include shared equity rather than solely increased ”Generation Rent”.
4. Financial prudence and reserve budgets. It is right that a well run Council maintains six and even seven figure reserves. We live in uncertain times. Each borough needs to decide local priorities. It could be allowing each council ward its own budget (with community engagement). Or copy successive national governments and look at incentivising a younger demographic, like the senior citizens giveaways? Council Tax discounts for those under 25 ? Just a thought…..
5. Being on our local communities side. Rob Halfon MP is right to champion ladders of opportunity. Conservative Council’s have not communicated enough the amount we are doing to build upon Iain Duncan-Smith’s work – getting the most vulnerable into work. Another example is Westminster Council Leader, Nickie Aiken, pressing David Davis to sort out EU nationals’ residency asap, DD listened.
I wish all ConHome readers a great summer (and thank them for their huge efforts over the General Election Campaign). Come September we are ready for the fight to retain and increase our hold on Councils across London. While Labour may be busy infighting and deselecting one another, we Conservatives must focus on hammering home our positive messages.