Cllr Kris Wilson is the Leader of the Opposition on Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council
This year’s elections in Nuneaton and Bedworth saw us achieve historic results, even surpassing our victory in 2008 when Marcus Jones MP led us to take control of the council. With hard work and determination we won nine extra seats from Labour compared to 2014 and a massive 51 per cent of the vote, forcing the council into No Overall Control for only the second time in the Council’s history.
Labour have been in control of Nuneaton and Bedworth for 42 out of our 44 year history. We have gone from just three councillors in 2014 to 16 in four years. The results place us in a strong position to fight to take outright control in two years time at our next elections.
But what lessons can we learn from our successes this year?
- Assess your targets. When 17 seats are up for election you must be realistic and select the wards you know are possible to win. Don’t plough lots of work into seats you know you have no possible chance. Look at the data you have to assess your targets. Canvass returns and tallying from previous election nights are key to knowing where you have a possibility of success. But, critically, stick to your targets and don’t let others try and blow you off course.
- Select your candidates early. In both Nuneaton and Bedworth (with three constituencies) we ensured that our candidates were selected at the earliest possible opportunity. This gave us more time to go out to the residents in our target wards and establish our candidates as strong champions of their communities.
- Conservative Councillors’ Association campaign funding. We were successful in applying in our target seats for funding from the CCA. Selecting candidates earlier means that you can get your bids in earlier and, with their support, you can do things in your campaign that may be out of your reach within your own resources.
- Listen to residents. Having candidates selected early means that you can get on the doorsteps earlier and hear the issues and concerns that residents raise. Between January and election day we spoke to over 6,000 people on the doorsteps. You can then feed this into your council group’s policy development.
- Compelling narrative and a positive plan. This is essential. It is not enough to state what you oppose from the ruling Labour Group. You have to have a policy platform to offer to residents as an alternative to go out and actively vote for. Work with council officers to work up your policies so that you know they are achievable. Every policy in our manifesto, both myself and my Deputy Leader met with officers to work up and know that every commitment in our manifesto is possible. For the first time we put together a dedicated manifesto leaflet in addition to regular newsletters, which gave us something to physically give to voters to show how we are different. No other party put forward a manifesto or a leaflet with their policies to be judged on.
- Campaign discipline. This comes from the top and as Group Leader I insisted on a positive campaign and no retaliation to the innuendo, lies and misinformation that our opponents put out. This really annoys your opponents, who are just waiting for you to bite. Especially the Greens who, despite their cuddly image, are amongst the worst offenders.
- Social Media. This is the first election we really actively used Social Media in Nuneaton and Bedworth. We put together a series of simple infographics that highlight the real choice between you and your opposition and the numbers of people that these reached was extremely surprising. These were so effective we used these infographics on our final campaign literature to really drive home the choice before residents at this election.
- Mutual Aid. For this election we had a lot of assistance, from both far and wide, and without this we would not have been to contact as many voters as we did, especially on Polling Day for a GOTV campaign. Warwick University Conservatives, Rugby, Stratford, Warwick, Hinckley & Bosworth and even as far afield as Hereford. This is going to be vital in the future of local elections and is something that the party needs to actively facilitate and develop.