Cllr Nickie Aiken is the Leader of Westminster City Council.
This year saw the toughest election in Westminster for 30 years. We were involved in street-to-street canvassing combat with Momentum hoards. We had to demonstrate through our candidates, community work, and policies that we represent the widest cross-section of our electorate, consistent with our values. So I am fully aware of the hard, but winnable fight the Conservative candidate faces in the 2020 Mayor of London election.
Westminster Conservatives understood that if we were to win we had to make ourselves relevant to voters, demonstrate that we understood their concerns, and provide them with the vision and policies that would deliver what they wanted. We did exactly that and secured electoral success.
So how do we persuade voters across the capital that it is only the Conservatives who have the answers to their main questions?
They are crying out for the Mayor to: build more affordable homes; stop the serious crime wave sweeping across the capital; put more police on the streets; ensure our journey to work, school and college is quick, pleasant and safe. Under Mayor Khan London has drifted. Rather than the excuses he continues to offer for his lack of progress in what he promised to deliver in 2018, Londoners want and deserve action.
For Conservative electoral success in London we must avoid a swing to the right. London is one of the most cohesive and integrated cities on earth and swings to the far left or right will not be welcomed by fair and pragmatic Londoners.
Sadly, we are currently witnessing how much Sadiq Khan has given in to the far Left to secure the Labour candidacy. His decision to now insist that the regeneration of council estates will only secure his funding if a ballot is held is a backward move. Even his own Deputy Mayor of Housing doesn’t agree and understands such votes tend to be hijacked by a small minority often with their own political agendas.
Just ask the residents of Church Street, the poorest ward in Westminster, and one of the UK’s poorest ten per cent most deprived areas. They have paid the heavy price of Khan’s move to the Left when he withdrew his £23.5 million for our major regeneration project to build 892 new affordable homes (over 50 per cent of the overall total) because he wanted us to have a new ballot. We had a ballot in 2012 when the residents sent a clear message – “we want new homes!”
Running a complex global city like London has its challenges but as we saw under the last Mayor, a Conservative, it can flourish. It needs the right person at the helm and the best team around that Mayor.
Across London, Conservative boroughs have a long and strong record of well run local authorities, charging lower Council Tax than their Labour neighbours, managing cleaner and better maintained streets, and a reputation for consistently protecting the vulnerable and delivering efficient services. However, Conservatives now face a larger and more organised Labour Party, changing demographics, voter apathy, and a more difficult message to send the electorate following ten years of austerity. London Conservatives must recognise these threats, unite, and respond decisively under the right Mayoral candidate.
Our Conservative Mayoral candidate must provide strong, confident and fair leadership that represents and addresses Londoners’ concerns. Londoners’ priorities are our priorities. They must develop successful new approaches, which harness the talent of its residents and businesses, supported by a collaborative leadership from City Hall.
That is why I supported Shaun Bailey to be our candidate to face Khan in 2020 and I am delighted that the majority of my fellow London Conservative members did so too. It is no reflection on the other two candidates; both of whom I believe are outstanding politicians.
I backed Shaun because of his personal mission to give everyone a stake in society; his respect for all of London’s communities; his experience of working with disadvantaged communities as a youth and community worker. Having grown up in council housing in inner London and now living in outer London with his young family, he understands the varied character of London’s diverse neighbourhoods.
Labour is obviously very concerned that Shaun is now taking on Khan and they see him as a credible threat. Just look at how The Guardian published the story of his comments in a Centre for Policy Studies pamphlet about the problems faced by inner city young people. The story ran so miraculously quickly following his speech at Conservative Party Conference. This pamphlet, written 13 years ago, gave Shaun’s own assessment on an issue he knew all too well having been brought up on a tough Kensington estate. Rather than appreciating Shaun’s real life experience, the hard Left was quick to condemn him as a racist.
Is this the taste of the Mayoral campaign to come? Yes very likely. Labour will no doubt make this election all about personality not issues. Because frankly they don’t have a record of achievement to campaign upon! Soaring crime, an atrocious new homes building record, and strike after strike on the Underground.
Shaun Bailey is the ideal candidate to take the fight to Sadiq Khan and deliver a Conservative victory based on vision and policy to secure a safer, fairer and outward looking capital.