Jonathan Coupe is the Chairman of the Stretford & Urmston Conservative Association.
After a rocky few seasons, Stretford and Urmston Conservatives are making Trafford Labour question its own tactics.
Stretford and Urmston is a Greater Manchester parliamentary constituency and is home to Manchester United Football Club, Lancashire County Cricket Club, Granada TV’s Coronation Street, Imperial War Museum North, Trafford Park industrial and business area, and the vast retail and leisure offer of the Trafford Centre. Part of the constituency’s northern end, forming the boundary with the outskirts of Manchester City Centre is the residential area of Old Trafford, while the other major towns in the constituency are Stretford, Urmston, Davyhulme, and Partington.
Stretford and Urmston is now represented in Parliament by Labour’s Kate Green – and Labour holds all its council seats. It’s fair to say that the local Conservatives’ fortunes have been slipping down the political league table of late and sometimes it feels that battling a well-organised local Labour operation is like playing against a gale force wind which changes at half time; but all is not lost.
At the 2021 Conservative Association AGM, a new Officer team was elected, and Officers have been busy trying to re-shape this small Association into one that can start to challenge Labour locally again. Having made good connections at the 2021 Conservative Party Conference held down the road in Manchester, the Association has now got a new Bluetree website and social media handles. Micro campaigns have been created, along with a resident newsletter, and communications to our members are taking place via Mailchimp. Door-knocking has recommenced and VoteSource training to record voting intentions has been provided by Greater Manchester Conservative Officers.
In recent years, Labour has largely ignored the residents of Stretford and Urmston, choosing to campaign in the neighbouring increasingly marginal constituency of Sir Graham Brady’s Altrincham and Sale West constituency. We have noticed in recent months that Labour supporters are back out campaigning in Stretford and Urmston however, so perhaps our efforts are not going unnoticed by the ruling Group on the local Trafford Council.
It’s really important that the Association gets itself into the best position it can as there are local elections in May 2022 and all-out elections in 2023. In addition, Labour is starting to antagonise voters with another proposed 2.99 per cent Council Tax rise, up to a two-thirds increase in car parking charges, and a 13 per cent increase in the cost of a resident parking permit. Added to that, local residents are concerned about Labour’s plans to build 4,300 new homes and 380,000 sq. m of industry and warehousing on the Green Belt at the small village of Carrington in the constituency. It’s only a few years since Labour supported residents to prevent Green Belt development and in doing so campaigned successfully in an upcoming election. Double standards need to be exposed.
Alongside plans for new homes with insufficient infrastructure in place to support new residents, a worrying picture is already emerging of parents being unable to get their children into their school of choice. Trafford is renowned for its excellent schools and we have discovered that primary schools can be seven times over-subscribed in Trafford. Labour has tried to reassure the public that there are sufficient school places, but that’s not the message we are hearing from parents.
Many local small business owners are also very unhappy about how the Clean Air Zone is planned to be implemented across Greater Manchester. The Zone is an attempt to clean up dirty air and has a launch date of just after the local elections in May 2022. Greater Manchester Mayor Burnham and the Labour Leader of Trafford Council, who is also city-region’s Clean Air lead, have been so spooked by the reaction from businesses and the public as to how they want to implement the Clean Air Plan, that additional work is being undertaken to understand more about how the impact of the growing global supply chain issues in the automotive sector would affect the Plan.
There’s plenty of news that we need to share with residents. Not just what Labour is trying to do to them, but also how we want to work with residents to achieve a better outcome for the constituency. With the small steps we have taken since 2021 to reinvigorate the Association, we are more confident that we can get our message out to local people efficiently and effectively.
Stretford and Urmston Conservatives would like to thank everyone who has helped us along our journey. As we move forward, it would be really helpful to hear from other small Associations who have been in a similar situation to ours and to share best practice on how to grow and become more effective.