Today sees the latest publication from the Cornerstone Group of socially conservative Tory MPs (the membership of which now equals about forty). Previous publication topics have included higher education and exiting the EPP.
David Burrowes is the author of ‘Pick ’em local and Pick ’em early’ – a timely contribution to the debate on candidate selection currently raging within the Conservative Party and something of a challenge to the approach enshrined in the party’s A-list.
At the last election David defeated Stephen Twigg with a swing of 8.7%. The Enfield Southgate seat was low down on the list of Tory targets (number 114) but David took the seat – once held by Michael Portillo – with the biggest swing of any victorious Conservative candidate. David is in a good position to recommend how to achieve a good election result.
‘Pick ’em local and Pick ’em early’ reflects David’s own experiences and an analysis of the common factors in the performance of Tory MPs who "achieved at least double the national average swing". Those common factors are summarised in the blue graphic on the right.
Local candidates and strong commitment to the locality are the big themes in David Burrowes’ analysis. He makes a strong case for radical localisation of power as a principal way in which to address the sense of powerlessness that is driving voter apathy. He uses the example of local phone masts to illustrate how the people of his own constituency have come to feel disempowered:
"Many constituents are frustrated that the first wave of masts was built with comparatively little public consultation or consideration for their local health or environmental concerns. Their protests have grown louder with the third generation phone upgrade which has ushered in another wave of mast building more densely spread than the first. Phone masts appearing on constituents’ doorsteps has vividly brought home their lack of control over their local area."
David Burrowes believes that compassionate, values-based local activism is a big part of the response to the reduction in voter turnout from 77% in 1992 to just 62% last year. He also thinks that it is the way to elect more Conservative MPs.
David Burrowes believes he was able to repeat the same success that saw Andrew Rosindell achieve 2001’s standout Tory result (in Romford):
"In 2001 one of our best results was in Romford where Andrew Rosindell bucked the national trend and regained the seat from Labour. Andrew’s success was no doubt formed from a proven track record over a number of years as a local champion. I recognised this point and similarly was able to lean on my position as a local councillor of 11 years in Enfield Southgate. I was well placed to voice constituents’ concerns about their locality and act as a focal point for campaigns on highly localised issues."
Summary of David’s strengths:
- Local commitment. David has not
only served on the council. He’s a local solicitor. He worships at a
local church. His five young children use local schools or
playgroups. He’s involved with local youth groups.
- Positivity. He hit hard at Stephen
Twigg’s connections with the unpopular Tony Blair during last year’s
election but fought a primarily positive campaign.
- Values-based. He was straightforward
about his traditional values – highlighting his support for families
and his Christian commitment (I should note that David Burrowes and I
co-founded the Conservative Christian Fellowship whilst at Exeter University in 1990).
- Compassionate conservatism. He didn’t
just campaign in the leafiest parts of the constituency but in the
harder-pressed areas where Labour’s failures have bitten deepest.
idea that we can parachute insubstantial and untested candidates with
little knowledge of the local scene into key seats to win the
confidence of people they seek to represent is the bizarre theory of
people who spend too much time with the pseuds and posers of London’s
chichi set and not enough time in normal Britain. David Burrowes, like
other Cornerstoners that captured their seats at the last election, has
proved that standing up for what you believe in, sticking up for
vulnerable people and stoically campaigning all year round on local
issues are what counts with voters. That’s why I’m so pleased that
David Cameron has decided to encourage early selection in target seats.”
* Download a PDF summary of Were you up for Twigg?