Cllr Simon Cook is the Leader of Canterbury City Council.
Last month more than 40,000 people ran 26 miles around London in scorching sunshine. Less than a fortnight later, tens of thousands of Conservatives put in the final hard yards in this year’s local elections, often at the end of a similarly heated campaign. Whether we’re talking running or electoral races, while the cameras focus on the finish line, the participants know it’s all about the work that goes in beforehand. That is why today we are launching our campaign to hold Canterbury City Council in 2019 and win back the parliamentary seat at the next General Election.
Of course, last year’s shock result here hit local morale but we are very much back on the front foot and buoyed by the terrific results achieved by our colleagues in Maidstone, Tunbridge Wells, and around the country on 3rd May. In our district of Canterbury, Whitstable, Herne Bay and the villages, we are focused on three things: our manifesto; our campaign; and our infrastructure.
Our manifesto is published today. We have three headline pledges: to boost our local economy, with a special focus on housing issues; to improve our local environment; and to continue to balance the Council’s books. Local Conservatives have a proven track record in these areas and we will show residents how we want to go further. As part of our manifesto, we are also launching a special campaign today, calling for a new hospital – complete with an A&E and maternity services – to be built in the district.
Our pledge to campaign for a new hospital is firmly rooted, as local Conservatives played a vital role in defending the Kent & Canterbury Hospital in 2005 when the last Labour government wanted to close it down. Now we want to build on that – and build a new one! Over the coming months we will show how the other themes of our manifesto, such as boosting our local economy, will serve as a platform for detailed policies on issues like tackling homelessness and helping local people get the housing they need.
We have a campaign plan to promote our policies, too. We are building our local activist base, with record numbers turning up to help us on the doorstep. We hold big action days on the first Saturday of every month, so get in touch if you’d like to come along. Where we need to, we are also challenging some voters’ perception of the Conservative party. For example, Canterbury Pride is the biggest Pride in Kent and local Conservatives have always played a vital role in organising and supporting it – but in the past, we have allowed Labour to hijack the event. This year, local Conservatives are a proud official sponsor of Canterbury Pride, so if you’d like to join us on 9th June, come to the main site in Dane John Gardens and we’ll see you there.
And lastly, we are putting a huge amount of effort into our local party infrastructure, with a big shift in mindset from ‘safe seat’ to ‘marginal fight’. They say the Conservative Party is only ever complacent or panic stricken – but we want to prove that we can do something else instead and achieve persistent, sustainable, effective effort.
So, in the Canterbury constituency the campaign for 2019 and beyond has already started. We want to put Labour on notice that we are up for a marathon effort – and if you want to come and cheer us on along the way, then we’d love to see you.