Samia Hersi works for a Conservative MP. Previously she worked for an education charity in London. She writes in a personal capacity.
With the Local and London Mayoral elections being pushed back to next year, following the current coronavirus outbreak, a new opportunity has arisen for the Conservatives to rethink campaigning strategy on how it can win back London from Labour.
Shaun Bailey as the Conservative Party’s Mayoral candidate is a great example of how the party has modernised in terms of looking more like London – but it also needs to think like London.
If you ask any Londoner, their top three concerns, barring coronavirus, would be the rising levels of violent crime, the need for affordable housing, and transport.
The 80-seat majority the Conservative Party secured following the 2019 general election serves as an extra boost and momentum to support the party’s London Mayoral campaign. The general election saw previous Labour voters, like me, vote Conservative for the first time.
The easing of planning restrictions to ensure the further building of affordable homes complements Bailey’s plans to lift the ban on using strategic industrial land to build homes and to fix Transport for London’s finances following Sadiq Khan’s mismanagement as Mayor. These pledges demonstrate the Conservative Party’s commitment to winning back London.
Violent crime, particularly among young people, is a multidimensional issue that requires a multidimensional approach. Increasing the number of police officers on the streets of London is a welcome step, but on its own is not enough. Preventative policies rather than reactionary ones are needed.
An example of this would be widening the use of diversion programmes in policing, which target young people who have committed their first minor offence and referring them to local boroughs Youth Offending Teams (YOTs), instead of pursuing the matter through the criminal justice system. There is a growing amount of evidence supporting the effectiveness of police diversion programmes in reducing a young person’s likelihood of reoffending.
Indeed, the Home Office trialling of Knife Crime Prevention Orders in London from March this year, and Bailey’s assurance to invest in youth services, are good examples of making use of preventative measures to tackle violent crime.
I know from my personal experiences how violent crime has affected inner London communities and its these communities that the party will need to appeal to win London back from Labour.
The donut strategy, where Boris Johnson’s Mayoral campaign targeted voters residing within the suburban outer London boroughs helped to secure his 2008 and 2012 victories, but it was not enough to hold onto London in 2016 for Zac Goldsmith.
It’s fantastic to see Shaun Bailey, a Londoner, and a youth worker for over 20 years, run as the Conservative Party London Mayoral candidate, but to win London back he and his campaign team need to rethink which voters they are trying to appeal to.