Cllr Julie Bird is a councillor in Portsmouth.
Conservative Home readers may remember one of the more dramatic of the 2014 council election results: the defeat of Portsmouth Lib Dem MP, Mike Hancock. In addition to serving as an MP, he had represented Fratton ward on Portsmouth City Council since 1971. I defeated Mr. Hancock and was one of six UKIP councillors elected in Portsmouth that day. Those gains helped usher Donna Jones and her Conservative administration into power on the Council.
Since 2014 I have worked alongside and have supported the Conservative group in Portsmouth. I have been immensely impressed by the hard work of the Conservative councillors and the clear direction under the leadership of Donna Jones. The Conservative administration has taken brave and bold steps working within financial constraints to minimise the effects of budget cuts whilst increasing revenue streams from previously untapped sources – all the while fending off the Lib Dems.
I switched to being Independent when I found that UKIP’s evolving policies did not sit comfortably with me and I could no longer represent them. The move from Independent to Conservative is a natural step for me. As a small business owner I have always been drawn to policies that encourage entrepreneurship and business growth. A Conservative government encourages individuals to raise their own aspirations and to achieve their ambitions. Being from a naval city, a clear Defence policy, maintaining the size of our Armed Forces, and retaining Trident are key pledges. A new post-Brexit fisheries policy will also be vital to ensuring the success of many small commercial ventures in coastal areas.
My 2014 election campaign was waged online. It was a risky strategy, but through it I have learnt an awful lot. Grassroots campaigning has changed. Whilst door knocking, leaflet delivery, and traditional methods are still vitally important, there is now an additional technique which needs to be taken account.
One direct result of my unusual campaign was that I met my future husband as a result. Roger Bird, UKIP’s then General Secretary and a former Conservative councillor, had heard of my campaign and was keen to learn how I had run it. Two years later, we got married!
Online campaigning, targeting, and data gathering will become increasingly important. Social media is not something to shy away from, but rather a tool which when used effectively can help to deliver a strong Conservative message.