Samuel Williams is a communications specialist and the Conservative candidate for Mayor of Bristol.
The December 2019 General Election secured an extraordinary result with an overwhelming mandate for a Boris Johnson government and the Conservatives to continue leading and uniting our country, delivering upon the 2016 referendum to leave the European Union, and then strengthen our economy and communities with much-needed investment and renewed vision.
As the dust settles on the new political landscape, as Conservatives we have an opportunity, and an obligation, to demonstrate our party’s commitment to continue that which secured our victory: by listening, learning, and serving all people across our country, so that no one is left behind.
It is this very ability of the Conservatives to capture the zeitgeist through listening and learning, that contrary to what social media echo chambers would have us believe, Labour has failed to do. With a manifesto twice as long as other parties crammed with social reform pledges that many might ordinarily consider desirable, Labour still failed to capture the imagination and commitment of the electorate. Whilst they might have presented the vision of hopefulness and change many wanted, it was lost amidst the growing doubt that they could actually achieve any of it. Furthermore, they wrongly imagined that the electorate longed for a revolutionary styled remaking of the entire nation in a single Parliamentary term; in other words, Labour simply didn’t listen and didn’t represent the very views our representational democracy exists so to do.
The ‘we know best’ modus operandi of Labour isn’t just manifest on the national stage but runs throughout local government too.
For this reason, I am delighted to be standing as the Mayoral candidate for Bristol in the elections in May this year. Standing in opposition to the incumbent Labour Mayor, I say it is high time that all our communities across the City and all Bristolians are listened to and served; something that simply is not happening under the current administration. Even a cursory glance at the State of Bristol 18-19 report highlights significant injustices, showing an increasing year on year crime rate with 33 per cent of the population in the most deprived areas fearing acts of crime and violence on a day to day basis. Hate crime up. Those “Not in Education, Employment or Training” is above the national average.
Air quality continues to be dangerously out of control – and life expectancy significantly worse than the national average. Pupils in receipt of Special Educational Needs support or having an Education Health and Care Plan is above the national average and yet provision has been cut. In some quarters of 2019, the 20-week deadline to produce support plans failed to be met in 98 per cent of cases. Our cities housing crisis is met by a lack of leadership around affordable and social housing whilst rough sleeping has increased 10-fold in the last 7 years. This list goes on, and yet despite these challenges, Bristol is a wonderfully dynamic, diverse and innovative place, and is a world leader across sectors from education to the arts, financial services, STEM and business.
The fact is, many Bristolians are being poorly served by an administration that seems to neither listen nor hear the cries of frustration. In many instances, communities are feeling forgotten and those most deprived and in need, hit the hardest. Many on the Left blame Conservative austerity policy for these worrying trends and yet the simple fact is, as a city with devolved power and resource through the directly elected mayoral system addressing these issues comes down to a matter of priority and will on a local level.
As I stand alongside Bristolians, I commit to getting back to the basics of local government, that is to address the real issues that impact residents each day. That means ensuring that education standards are improving, especially for those with SEND requirements, and making sure support is delivered when it is needed. I pledge to support our local businesses, bringing life to our high streets and economy through pioneering start-up hubs. I back a freeport for the City and eco-innovation enterprise zones.
We must look forward towards a sustainable and healthy city developing transport, housing, and environmental policies which strengthen communities, improve health, enable equal access to all opportunities across the city, and work towards carbon neutrality. But more fundamental than a fresh and positive policy agenda, Bristol needs leadership that is not afraid to listen, learn and serve from a place of courageous humility.
Unlike many places around the country, Bristol maintained a strong Labour vote during the General Election. I would be naive not to expect a hard road ahead of me in the run up to May’s Mayoral election. However, I am equally aware that the city at large is tired of politics being done to them by a Labour-weighted Council Cabinet who is often accused of being unapproachable, unaccountable, and failing to deliver much-needed services. So, whilst I may stand with an outside chance of winning, I do so, standing with the people of Bristol so that together, Bristol might flourish.