Cllr Holly Whitbread is the Housing and Property Services Portfolio Holder on Epping Forest District Council. She is also the Deputy Chairman Political of Conservative Young Women.
As a local councillor and an enthusiastic political activist, I spend most weekends knocking on doors on behalf of the Conservative Party.
The past year hasn’t been easy. In May, during the local elections, I experienced more animosity on the doorstep than ever before. Despite attempting to focus solely on local issues – ‘Bins not Brexit’ – the national picture covered the campaign with a dark, and sometimes stormy cloud.
Essex is a traditionally strong territory for the Conservatives and the county voted convincingly to leave. It was interesting to observe that in local elections, particularly during the European elections, a significant number of people put their Brexit position above traditional party allegiances.
In the election period and the weeks immediately following it, most people I spoke to in my local area, and beyond, demonstrated a deep frustration that Brexit had not been delivered as promised. I would go so far to say that many of the electorate were losing hope in democracy and had certainly have lost faith in politicians, of all colours.
Many voters placed all politicians under the same umbrella. The blue rosette I wore became symbolic of the ‘political class’ who are working to undermine Brexit. I was accused of being a “traitor” on more than one occasion, despite making it clear that I voted and campaigned to leave the EU and I shared people’s frustration with the state of Brexit paralyse.
Far from taking back control, people who voted leave felt that their voice has been silenced. This led to people seeking an alternative in protest or becoming apathetic with the entire political process.
Whilst, the Conservatives limped on through the local elections bruised but not too wounded, it was clear that there was much work for the Conservative Party to do to rebuild trust in democracy and win back the support of a disenfranchised electorate.
This summer, following the election of a new Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, things have changed. With the party’s new ‘Captain’ at the helm our relationship with the electorate appears to have dramatically improved.
Although there is still a tangible sense of anger that Brexit is yet to be delivered, this is not directed at the Conservatives. People are backing Johnson to get Brexit done and move our great nation forward.
Last week, one lady who I remembered from earlier this year decrying the past administration’s Brexit policy, enthusiastically declared, “Tell Boris to keep going!” Her reaction was replicated by many.
Outside of the ‘remainer bubble’, in Westminster, at universities, middle-class London dinner parties, and on the twitter-sphere, people are giving Johnson a chance and like what they see. From my discussions whilst out on the campaign trail, it is clear that people can see that Johnson is doing everything he can to deliver the outcome of the European Referendum. They acknowledge the difficulties he is experiencing with a significant number of parliamentarians working against the wishes of the wider public. However, they are impressed with his tenacity, in pursuit of his do or die Brexit approach.
Although the Government may have lost a series of legislative battles in Parliament, with the support of the people Johnson’s Conservatives will win the war, unconditionally delivering Brexit, as promised. There is widespread condemnation over of recent parliamentary manoeuvres which are aimed at undermining the Prime Minister, preventing Brexit, prolonging uncertainty and undermining democracy. The snobbish assertion that “people didn’t know what they voted for”, continues to arouse fury in those, who instructed our politicians to leave the European Union. A huge number of pragmatic remain voters say its time to move forward, deliver Brexit and then move beyond it.
A general election is now required to move beyond the current political impasse. the election will be fought along the lines of the People vs Parliament. Johnson has become the “People’s Prime Minister” fighting the corner of ordinary people. He is leading the charge against a petulant Parliament, the majority of which do not want to see Brexit delivered and have failed to provide any solutions, just dither and delay. Johnson will be fighting an election on behalf of the people, seeking to fulfil the Brexit promise and then moving our great country forward.
Johnson is talking about the domestic priorities that people care about and resonate on the doorstep, cutting beyond the Brexit divide; investing in police and giving them the powers they require to keep people safe and putting more money into schools to ensure every child gets the best education possible. In addition to ensuring people keep more of their own hard-earned money. This strong one-nation Conservative agenda will help this great country unite.
From a grassroots political perspective, Johnson’s leadership has re-energised party members. We are canvassing with clear messages which are resonating. Local membership is growing, activists are far more engaged and proud to pound the streets for the Conservatives.
So when the election comes, the Conservatives are ready. My conversions with people in recent weeks make me confident that people will back us to deliver Brexit and lead an optimistic and patriotic post Brexit Britain.