Published:

Lord Greenhalgh is the Minister of State for Building Safety, Fire and Communities.

Too many political commentators mistakenly believe the old canard that London is a Labour city. That is rubbish. For every Ken Livingstone at County Hall, there has been a Horace Cutler, and for every Ken Livingstone or Sadiq Khan in City Hall, there has been a Boris Johnson as Mayor of our capital city. In fact, there has only been Boris and that has to change.

I worked alongside Mayor Johnson for four years and now serve in the government of our Prime Minister. I could write about his positive legacy as Mayor of London, but as we are approaching local elections in May, I would like to remind London Conservatives of the less well known spirit and wisdom of Sir Horace Cutler who was Conservative leader of the GLC until 1981.

I have just reread Cutler’s own book, the Cutler Files, on his over 30 years in the town halls in London, and County Hall in particular. I will not summarise the book but summarise its central message as 10 commandments to all the current and aspiring Conservative councillors who are standing in May:

  1. Become a councillor, as Cutler did as a local and county councillor, out of “patriotic spirit” and to serve your community. I may have served as a local councillor for 16 years and council leader for six years before serving in City Hall for a further four years. But this pales into insignificance when compared to a Horace Cutler, or Edward Lister for that matter, who served for 35 years as a councillor, 19 as council leader, and 5 years in City Hall as Deputy Mayor and the Chief of Staff to Mayor Johnson. Both Horace and Eddie had a deep sense of public service with a burning desire to deliver for local residents.
  2. Start with a healthy scepticism about the power of the town hall bureaucracy to deliver.  Remember Ronald Reagan’s famous adage: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the Government and I’m here to help.”
  3. Make the delivery of value for money for the taxpayer a moral mission.
  4. Wage war on bureaucracy.
  5. Focus on the universal services that affect the lives of every resident in your borough.
  6. Create a housing ladder of opportunity with home ownership at its core.
  7. Tear down the Berlin Wall between private and public housing by improving housing for all.
  8. Focus on delivering a limited number of things well.
  9. Remember to engage directly with those that disagree with you.
  10. Have a sense of humour!