Cllr Leigh Higgins is the Conservative candidate for Chesterfield in the General Election. He is Deputy Leader of Melton Borough Council and the Conservative Regional Chairman for the East Midlands.
At this election, there are a number of candidates who have served, or are currently serving, as Conservative councillors.
Local councillors understand that the mood on the doorstep can be beyond our control, and more to do with the national picture. In May, nationally, we lost many good and hard-working Conservative councillors because of Parliament’s refusal to honour the referendum. However, we did not lose as many as the media thought. That was due to councillors who not only embed themselves in the local community and work hard over the term, but then at elections have a bond on the doorstep which can be rewarded by a personal vote.
Talk to any Parliamentary candidate at a General Election, who has stood in a local election: they know the value of campaigning and having numerous conversations on the many doors they and their teams need to knock on. Councillors also know the many issues that people care about outside Westminster. I am standing for the seat of Chesterfield, a lovely market town constituency. From the conversations I’ve had, people want to know what you are doing for their street, their community, and their town. For those who have stood before, this will not be an unfamiliar conversation. Be that from tackling potholes (which we’ve announced a £2bn spend on) or social care (£1bn per year), or protecting the local High Street and local pubs (pledge to cut Business Rates). For Chesterfield, in particular, the Government has announced £19m for the local hospital. Across Derbyshire – and England – there is the guarantee of more funding for every child in every school.
Many effective councillors will not only be good listeners but, importantly, they will have the ability to find and work towards solutions to problems. To any councillor reading this column, I would recommend going on the LGA’s media and leadership courses. This experience will serve those who are elected. I would pay particular tribute to Ben Everitt (Milton Keynes North), Gagan Mohindra (South West Hertfordshire), Jane Hunt (Loughborough) for some of the great achievements, large and small, they’ve achieved for the communities they serve.
As a councillor you need take an effective leading role to get success – but also ensure you have a degree of robustness and personal resilience in any political journey. I have been a part of a wider team, working with MPs, Government, other councils, and public bodies, as well as private enterprise, to shape communities and help people. Recently, working in partnership, we secured two rounds of Government funding (£65m) for our long awaited bypass which will kick-start over 4,000 much needed houses – to include starter homes for young first time buyers; and bring a huge economic boost to the area. These strategic objectives could only be achieved by working together in order to find the solution and relentlessly driving the business case to secure the funding.
Not all the problems can be solved in Westminster, and Whitehall sometimes is too remote when designing policies which have the best of intentions. This is why we need Parliament, and indeed our own Parliamentary Party, to have a broad church of views, people from diverse backgrounds, and who come from differing routes to become a Parliamentary candidate. The collective should bring together better ideas and policies.
Some candidates will tell you that to understand the issues on the ground in a snap election, you should talk to the local councillors in the area. (In Melton it is our extremely popular campaign for a second doctors’ surgery which helped secure 22 out of 28 councillors in a difficult election in May 2019.) However, if the Conservatives succeed in getting a number of our excellent candidates who’ve had a background in standing for local elections, running local campaigns, understanding the pressures of Local Government, and how Government can devolve more to local communities; it could serve the Conservatives’ long term prospects well. A successful party of Government always keeps its finger on the pulse, and that should include our extensive and successful councillor network.
I will sign off with putting a question to you: If you want to make a difference at this election will you go and help your nearest marginal seat between now and December 12th? While we were only nine seats short last time it can be just a handful of votes which means a Conservative Government or Jeremy Corbyn.
Please donate to North Derbyshire Conservatives. Other candidates include Lee Rowley (North East Derbyshire) and Mark Fletcher (Bolsover).