Jonathan Sheppard (of the Despatch Box blog)
was the Conservative Party Candidate in Bassetlaw in the 2005 General
Election. He works in Government Relations for a major High Street
retailer based in Nottingham, and is also unpaid political adviser to a
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There are some within the Conservative party who think being a “moderniser” is a dirty word. Others believe that only “right wing” solutions can reinvigorate our party. Both propositions are wrong.
The party needs to recognise the importance of having clear thought out policy platforms on issues like the environment, and international development. We can’t ignore issues such as energy – which will dominate the next few years and have to ensure we have well thought out policies on both renewables and – the “Cinderella” of the debate – energy efficiency. At the same time we have to ensure we don’t throw the baby out with the bath water and ignore issues where the public perceive we are much better equipped to deliver than the current Government. One such issue is Law and Order.
During the last election the party was criticised for concentrating too much on the issue of Crime and Law and Order, but is that criticism justified? As a candidate I stressed the issue of crime, and pushed the slogan “Time to put the law back into Bassetlaw” in my constituency wide newspaper. Why did I do it? Not because I wanted to concentrate on a policy that would just appeal to a core Conservative vote – but because it was an issue that was being talked about locally.
Crime in Nottinghamshire rose 17% between 98/99 and 03/04 with a decrease of 18 police stations. Our policy commitment of over 740 new police for the county was warmly welcomed. The previous Labour Council had installed CCTV to monitor a local community centre that had continued the get vandalised. Unfortunately they put the cameras on 8 foot high poles – so the cameras were stolen hours after their installation. Incidents such as this were one of the reasons why Bassetlaw returned a Conservative Council for the first time in 25 years.
To those who suggest the Conservatives should stop “banging on” about crime I say it would be remiss of any opposition not to. We would not only be failing the victims of crime – but failing the law abiding public. Linked to crime is the issue of drug use.
My admirable opponent in the election stated, “In most of the schools in my constituency the recreational use of cannabis is 100 % among 16 year olds.” I believe that the decision taken by the Labour Government on cannabis reclassification was wrong. The Police Federation stated that the downgrading of the drug could lead many people into believing it was a legal drug. The British Medical Association has said that smoking cannabis increases the risk of heart disease, lung cancer and emphysema. That’s not to mention the mental health problems which are linked to the drug.
Under this Government prisons are now almost full to capacity. Labour’s solution is tagging – but tagging doesn’t stop criminals offending when they are out on early release. We need to commit to building more prisons – because prison works. More needs to be done to ensure prisons are drug free, and that more is done to educate inmates with basic skills in order to combat recidivism.
The current Government has made anti social behaviour a priority. Yet they believe you create a café culture by opening pubs 24 hours a day. I would suggest you create a café culture by opening more cafés, not by turning many of our towns and cities into no go areas during the evening.
What is clear is Labour is failing on the issue of law and order and the Conservative party needs to continue highlighting these failings whilst offering real solutions to these serious issues.