Chris Grayling is MP for Epsom and Ewell, and Secretary of State for Transport.
There’s an old adage that time seems to pass faster as you get older. It’s certainly true that election season seems to come round quicker and quicker as the years go by.
This year it’s County Council, Mayoral and Scottish local government elections. And it would be easy to think they don’t matter much when you look at the pitiful state of the opposition. Labour are in a constant state of chaos, making policy on the hoof and u-turning on everything – apart from their refusal to listen to the public’s concerns about immigration. The Liberal Democrats have lost their last semblance of being democratic by openly talking about ignoring the referendum result. And UKIP are publically disintegrating.
Meanwhile, this Government is listening to the public and getting on with the job of delivering Brexit. It’s an approach that is winning support and respect across the political spectrum.
Local elections matter because councils make decisions on your local roads and housing, on street lights, footpaths and car parking. These things connect people to those in local government who make decisions that affect where your taxes are spent. So life under anything but a Conservative-led council is likely to be a bad thing for working people.
It may be easy not to think so, but this is the moment for us to step up a gear. It’s absolutely not a time for complacency. We absolutely cannot move forward on an assumption that we will cruise into another term in Government in 2020, and we cannot possibly take the risk of allowing the Labour Party anywhere near power.
This month, we have seen Labour in its true colours. Asked to condemn strikes on the tube and on the railways, Jeremy Corbyn instead volunteered to join a picket line. In the Commons, not one Labour MP was willing to even question the action of the unions in disrupting the lives of working people.
All they can do is attack the private sector, question the benefits of inward investment and demand a return to the bad old days of failing nationalised industries. Combined with their idea of a return to the days of punitive wealth taxes on people who build successful businesses, their dogma would do immeasurable damage to job creation and to the prospects of people and communities up and down the country.
But Corbyn doesn’t need to sweep the board to get into Downing Street. He has a new army of far left supporters of Momentum who will take to the streets in the coming weeks. Their party subscriptions have given him a fresh fighting fund. The eminent political commentator John Curtice wrote recently about how Corbyn could limp to power backed by the LibDems and the SNP. So Tim Farron and Nicola Sturgeon could help JCorbyn to become Prime Minister even if his party doesn’t think he can win a majority himself.
Our job is to make sure that can’t happen. That means fighting to win every possible seat we can in May. It means working to make sure the Liberal Democrats can’t rebuild their grassroots and their local government base. It means taking the battle to the Labour Party in mayoral elections in places like Birmingham, where Andy Street is by far the best candidate for the new role. And it means doing all we can to help Ruth Davidson continue her excellent progress in Scotland and keep the SNP on the back foot.
So when Conservatives hit the pavements in May we do so knowing we have a clear direction and plan to be proud of. We are building a country that works for everyone, with a growing economy, rising education standards and a programme of investment that will equip us for the future.
We have an opposition that is more interested in cosying up to militant union leaders than backing hard working people. But if we assume that Jeremy Corbyn has no route to power we would be making a big mistake. It’s one that we cannot, must not and will not make.