Chris Grayling is Justice Secretary, and Parliamentary Candidate for Epsom and Ewell.
Tom King has every reason to be putting his feet up in retirement. He was one of the Party’s key figures during the years when Margaret Thatcher and John Major’s Conservative Party dominated the political scene.
But when I met Lord King of Bridgwater, as he now is, in a pub car park just outside Stroud, he was there for anything but a peaceful country pub lunch. He was off canvassing in support of Neil Carmichael, the excellent MP and now parliamentary candidate for that constituency.
During the past three weeks, like many of my Cabinet colleagues, I have been around the country visiting seat after seat, campaign team after campaign team, in support of the work they are doing. It’s the part of the campaign away from the media spotlight – except for the ever present local papers and radio stations – but it is absolutely vital that we throw our weight behind the Conservatives on the ground in the country. Their work is going to make all the difference this time.
It’s not just former Cabinet Ministers like Lord King. I’ve met students, school pupils, parents taking a break from school holiday duties, business people (such as the owner of a local garden centre helping Marcus Jones in Nuneaton) and a whole range of people with time in retirement, from former police and local government officers to a retired long distance lorry driver, as well as our councillors and local council candidates – all tramping the streets to win the crucial votes that will make all the difference in our marginal seats.
So far since the campaign really got underway, I’ve been to almost 40 seats, and in every single one I have found the same thing: local Conservatives determined that we will win this election, and win it well. And their role will make all the difference. Perhaps this time more than ever.
Of course people are influenced by hearing David Cameron on radio and television, setting out his vision for our country. Of course they are influenced by policy announcements, such as our plans for inheritance tax and to give working parents much more access to childcare. But there are lots of undecided voters out there, and the conversations our teams have with those voters on the doorsteps are going to be crucial in shaping the final result on May 7th.
They are the ones getting the real-time feedback from voters on what they think of our policy announcements as we make them. We may sometimes think that voters don’t pay close attention to everything that the Parties are saying. And often they don’t. But I’ve met plenty who know all too well what our announcements of the day are – and they want to grill the person on the doorstep about them.
In the end a political party is a team. From the newest member to the longest serving. From the local campaign manager to the key strategists at CCHQ. From the recently elected councillor to the most senior member of the Cabinet.
What I am seeing around the country is that team playing at its best. We have a strong story to tell. But we have to get out and tell it, to a public who are sometimes sceptical and often cynical. It’s great to find the people who are the backbone of our party step by step breaking down that cynicism and helping win the votes we will need to emerge successful on May 7th. To all of those people, we owe a big debt of gratitude.