Cllr Mike Bird is the Leader of Walsall Council
With the local elections behind us, may I commiserate with the tremendous number of Conservative colleagues who were unsuccessful in securing election or reelection, some after many years of dedicated service to local government and to their respective communities.
In Walsall, we once again bucked the trend in holding all seats we were defending and gaining two seats from Labour, one of which we had not won in an ordinary election since the Second World War.
So how did we do it?
In short, hard work and dedication from a committed team of loyal group members with a very able deputy, Cllr Adrian Andrew, who ran an exceptional campaign of targeted issues in all 20 of the wards in the election, and concentrating on the issues that people on the doorstep were raising during the campaign.
Our focus was on ten pledges across the Borough that we knew from previous surveys were the very things people wanted to see delivered with the return of a Conservative administration.
The job now is to effect that delivery, and the first Cabinet Meeting laid down the timeline for delivery of all of those ten pledges showing that we listened, we heard, and we delivered.
Walsall voted overwhelmingly for Brexit, and that was the message that we constantly gave to the electorate. Like us, they were dismayed at the paralysis that some of our MPs have continued to promulgate, despite the will of their electorate.
Some of those very same MPs will be looking for the loyal Conservatives that they have betrayed when they seek reelection at the next General Election, but because of their betrayal, they are no longer there.
Eddie Hughes, our Walsall North MP, was by our side throughout, as was the West Midlands Mayor Andy Street in a campaign that showed unity locally rather than disunity nationally. May I personally thank them both for their contribution to our success. We also had welcome support from Wendy Morton, the MP for Aldridge Brownhills. Financial assistance from the Conservative Councillors Association was put to good use.
Our collective decision to concentrate on targeted literature resulted in success against keyboard warriors navel gazing on social media and preaching to their own.
So where do we go from here?
We now have to regroup and fall squarely in line with our new leader, whoever that may be, and take the fight to the Labour Party in their home territories, showing the electorate the disaster that a Jeremy Corbyn Government would bring.
Yes, as a Party, we are in a mess, but not one that we cannot repair and resolve. But this needs determination, and the resolve that the alternative is unimaginable.
The Sun wrote the famous headline “if Kinnock wins today will the last Britain to leave England please turn the lights out”. If we do not unite behind our new leader, then we will all be plunged into the Corbyn abyss, a dark place that we should all work to avoid.
Whilst I am proud, and many times humbled, after 40 years as a Conservative councillor, and the leader of my council on six occasions, my message from the recent election success has to be: do not give up, as always we have to educate many MPs of their constituents views, and of course, carry out the dictat of funding reductions in local government finances, whilst keeping the respect of our electorate for the job we all do.
In closing, might I repeat my condolences to those unsuccessful in the last elections, but remember, when you are at an all time low, the only way is up, and we will return. I learned a long time ago that “when you win, you don’t crow, and when you lose, you don’t cry”. Now is not the time for crying, but to look to the recovery that we will make and deservedly so.
The Conservative Party has resilience and respect. Be proud to be part of it.