Cllr James Hockney represents Bush Hill Park Ward on Enfield Council.
Going into the Bush Hill Park by-election in Edmonton looked to be a challenging prospect. Whilst we won all three seats in May, it was only just, with a 64-vote majority over the nearest Labour candidate. Following our win, one of the Ward Councillors was suspended for comments made in the Council chamber, and the other stood down, triggering the by-election.
In these circumstances the opposition made much of us being down to one councillor from three in such a short space of time. Added to this, Labour re-selected their nearest challenger, who, like me lived in the Ward. Bush Hill Park was also a heavily pro-remain seat. This was going to be an interesting by-election.
Two national election websites predicted a Labour gain also, but this only made us more determined not to allow this to happen.
So how did we win by such a decisive margin? I will cover this in five parts;
Sheer hard work
Running my business from home gave me the added flexibility to fight a very high-profile campaign. Over the six-week campaign, we were out twice a day, six days a week canvassing and delivering across the weekends. In all, we completed 66 campaign sessions, which meant that I was able to see a substantial number of residents.
Keep it local
This was always a local election – for residents to decide who their local Councillor was going to be – not about Brexit or any other national issue. All our material was on local issues, and it was noticeable that as the campaign progressed, we set the narrative. In particular, we focused on the Labour Council’s proposals to move from weekly to fortnightly blue and black bin collections.
We also delivered three leaflets, with targeted material in the final stages of the campaign, in addition to utilising social media including three campaign vlogs.
In addition to a small team regularly canvassing, we recognised that this would not be enough. Labour had three local MPs and a large team of Councillors, before you even consider the activist base they have. We successfully managed to secure activists visiting from all over Enfield, London (and sometimes further afield). Whilst Labour still had the advantage of activists, it considerably narrowed this and kept us competitive.
The new Labour administration and local Labour MP both experienced adverse headlines in the media during the campaign. Many residents were upset by this, although it is difficult to know how much of a part this played in the overall result.
An experienced campaign team
It was all thanks to Adrian, Reece, Clare, Joanne, and Lee during the campaign. In addition to my own experience of over 18 years, within the team I also had two current Councillors, two former Councillors, and the Borough Campaign Manager all advising on the campaign. This experience meant that we were clear on what our focuses were right through the campaign.
The end result
Well, we won! With the above effort and focus, we turned a majority of under 100 votes (and in difficult circumstances) to a majority of over 700 votes on a lower turnout. To be honest, this is still sinking in. We knew we ran a great campaign, which provided the opportunity to win, but no one in the team expected a result of this magnitude.
The result meant a direct swing in support from Labour to Conservatives of 11 per cent. That meant a two-point win in May, expanding to a twenty-four-point win in November.
Over the next three and a half years, my focus will be on delivering for the residents of Bush Hill Park and building on this result.