Cllr Stephen Davies is the Leader of the Conservative Group on Stroud District Council.
Stroud is a market town nestling on the edge of the Cotswolds surrounded by some of the most beautiful parts of the Gloucestershire countryside, but it has little in common with the more affluent and Conservative (usually) Cotswolds. It is the proud birthplace of Extinction Rebellion, which, at its inception cost the local council to clear up graffiti, probably with chemicals which are not good for the environment. There is a “Stroudie” community that are rightly proud of their alternative heritage. It has been a marginal seat for years, and marginally voted remain in the referendum.
Many of us probably wish that our electorate were more politically active, but I would warn you to be careful what you wish for. In Stroud, we see protests on a whole range of issues, ranging from an anti “Energy from Waste” facility campaign through to the resistance of the introduction of car parking charges, which I was proud to successfully lead. In 2017, we lost our staunchly Remain MP, Neil Carmichael, despite increasing his number of votes, because of blatant tactical voting by the Greens, resulting in the election of our current MP, David Drew, representing the more left wing elements of the Labour Party. Carmichael and Drew have faced off against each other for nearly 20 years, Drew winning 3-2.
Carmichael has now stood down to pursue other interests, including a brief period as a candidate in the Euro Elections for Change UK.
Last year, the Stroud Conservative Association selected Siobhan Baillie as our Prospective Parliamentary Candidate. She is bringing a fresh energy to the constituency, and has every chance of success. We are a hard working Association in this consistently marginal seat. Siobhan represents the exciting future of the Conservative Party, and we are determined to get her elected whenever the next General Election is.
The next challenge is the District Council Elections in May 2020, when the whole Council is up for re-election. We are the largest Party, and need only three seats to gain a majority. Looking at this year’s elections, this would appear a tall order, but in a post Brexit environment, I believe this is possible. Our opponents, the Labour Party, will still have Jeremy Corbyn, who we know from knocking on doors is not popular in many parts of our District.
The opposition in Gloucestershire is often the Liberal Democrats, but not in Stroud. It is the Labour Party, and a flavour of the Labour Party that would do a north London borough proud. The more extreme nature is visible through endless motions of support for a myriad of causes that have no connection with Stroud, and a level of infighting and plain nastiness that could put you off local politics for life.
So what do we Stroud Conservatives stand for? We believe in all the usual Conservative principles, like value for money and efficiency. But we are also determined to ensure that Stroud District Council represents and supports the whole district, as well as the more vociferous “Stroudie” element. We also believe that issues like the environment matter, but disagree that the solution is stopping people doing things, which would be democratically challenging. That is why I am dubious about Extinction Rebellion talk of a “climate emergency”, as that is one step away from demanding emergency powers.
We believe technology is a key part of the solution, and in our district, we have a strong engineering heritage, including a company working on electric powered flight.
If you are in the area, we always appreciate help, and can always find a delivery route for you.