Yukteshwar Kumar: Why I have joined the Conservatives.

5 Aug

Cllr Yukteshwar Kumar is a councillor for Bath and North East Somerset Council representing Bathwick Ward

There is a maxim in Hindi: Akela Chana Bhand Nahi Todta. It means ‘one fan can’t dispel the fog’, or ‘a sole effort can’t change things’. Unfortunately, the beautiful city of Bath, a UNESCO World Heritage site that sits on the banks of the River Avon, has for the past three years been under the dark fog of the Liberal Democrats. This fog needs to be dispelled at the earliest opportunity.

Thankfully, such an opportunity will arrive in May when residents in Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES) will be asked to elect their local councillors for another four-year term.

Last Christmas I resigned from the Liberal Democrats after being subjected to bullying, discrimination, and numerous character assassinations. Since then I have continued to work hard in my Bathwick ward, speaking to people on the doorstep, arranging litter picks with local school children, and helping residents solve a wide range of issues.

The Lib Dems have huge party machinery at their disposal. If I fight alone to defend my Bathwick seat I will be living in fool’s paradise, wool-gathering along the beautiful banks of the Avon. I see the sheer volume of leaflets the Lib Dems shove through peoples’ letterboxes and which, on my own, I simply could not match.

Honesty and integrity matter a lot to me and my residents. For that reason, I could not have joined the Conservative Party under the soon-to-be former Prime Minister. Thankfully, though, things have changed.

Senior academic, Matthew Goodwin, recently said:

“The Conservative leadership election is already the most ethnically diverse leadership election in the history of British politics, after the most diverse cabinet in history, in the most diverse parliament in history.”

I would like to add not only is this true of Britain’s history but of the political history of the whole world. No country has ever witnessed such a diverse pool of talent vying for the top post. It is something of which we should all be proud.

Unlike the local Lib Dems, the B&NES Conservatives give a great deal of support and encouragement to hard-working activists. My new Conservative colleagues have the skills and the ambition, things the Lib Dems lack completely, to make Bath a better place to live and work.

Just before I officially joined the Conservatives, I was delighted to meet with Matthew Heappey, the party’s new Parliamentary Spokesperson for Bath and the man hoping to unseat Lib Dem MP, Wera Hobhouse. Matthew will make a brilliant MP and I’m delighted to support him at the next General Election as I know he will be supporting me at next year’s locals. Indeed, I have already developed a strong working relationship with the B&NES Conservatives and I’m hugely excited to think of what we might achieve together.

They say that politics is such a serious business that it should not be left to politicians alone. That’s why, as a senior academic at a university, I got involved in politics – to do good work in the community. When you are elected to public office, you are given a bigger platform to make serious changes in your local area for the benefit of the community.

The Liberal Democrats have ruined our beautiful city. After gaining a huge majority in the 2019 elections, they have become extremely arrogant and do not listen to the concerns of residents or other councillors.

In February 2020, even though I was then a member of the ruling Lib Dems, I raised the issue of the threat of the looming pandemic and demanded more budgetary support to deal with it. I, along with the Conservative councillors who made the same appeal, were ridiculed by the administration. And a month later, when I asked the administration to cancel or postpone the Bath Half Marathon because of the pandemic, once again I was reprimanded and ridiculed.

Due to their own incompetence, the B&NES Liberal Democrats are now deeply divided. Last year, a faction dissatisfied with the status quo brought down the senior leadership and the leader of the council was purged. The new leader of the council was the Chair of the Children and Young Peoples’ Scrutiny Committee in Telford as a Labour councillor when, as we now know, thousands of young girls were abused. He signed a letter in 2016 to then Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, stating that there was no need for a Government-led inquiry into the affair.

I am somebody who will fight against injustice wherever I encounter it. William Faulkner said:

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth.”

I do not know how much we can change the world, but I am determined to win 40 seats next year and dethrone the Lib Dem administration. And by joining hands with the Conservatives, fighting together for a better Bath, I will work even harder for my community until the Lib Dem fog is permanently dispelled.

The post Yukteshwar Kumar: Why I have joined the Conservatives. appeared first on Conservative Home.

Applications for candidate selection open for Chesham and Amersham, Bath, and Oxford West and Abingdon

30 Mar

Although the next general election may be over two years away, it has come to ConservativeHome’s attention that the first three seats have opened applications for candidate selection. Those first three seats are:

– Chesham and Amersham – applications by 8th April

– Bath – applications by 19th April

– Oxford West and Abingdon – applications by 29th April

These three seats all have several features in common. To start, they are all currently held by Liberal Democrats, but were Conservative within the last five years. Chesham and Amersham was lost last year in the by-election following Dame Cheryl Gillian’s death, whereas Bath and Oxford West and Abingdon both turned yellow at the 2017 general election.

Additionally, each voted to Remain in 2016. According to Dr Chris Hanretty’s estimates, Chesham and Amersham did so by the smallest margin of 55 percent to 45 percent. Oxford West and Abingdon, on the other hand, did so by 61.9 percent to 38.1 percent, and Bath by the even more substantial margin of 68.4 percent to 31.6 percent. That might explain why the latter two proved immune to the exhortation to ‘Get Brexit Done’ last time around.

Finally, each have employment rates, average incomes, and house prices above the national average. Economically, each appears natural Tory ground. However, there is a significant difference between Chesham and Amersham and the other two.  In Chesham and Amersham’s case, the swing to the Liberal Democrats last year has been attributed to local factors: the unpopularity of HS2 and local building plans.

But Bath and Oxford West and Abingdon are constituencies that appear to have been isolated from the party’s embrace of leaving the European Union. Wera Hobhouse saw her majority grow in Bath by 12.1 percent, from 5,694 to 12,322 votes at the last election, whereas Layla Moran saw hers in Oxford grow from 816 to 8,943, or by 13.9 percent.

Although the 8,028 (or 21.2 percent) majority in Chesham and Amersham may be attributable to the unique circumstances of by-elections, each therefore poses a significant challenge for whomever is chosen as the candidate. Hence why, one imagines, the party is so keen to get a candidate in so early.

The e-mail notifying the closing date for applications also contained some interesting information on the party’s approach to selecting candidates for seats affected by the ongoing boundary review. The Conservative Party Board has decided to select candidates on a case-by-case basis, and on the basis of using the existing boundaries.  Although all three of these seats lack Conservative incumbents, current MPs will be able to exercise their territorial rights if new constituencies overlap with their old ones, and the selected Parliamentary Spokespeople for these current constituencies would be asked to step aside.

Furthermore, if a displaced Member of Parliament claims their rights as an incumbent, then the selected candidate and the displace Member will have to undertake a further selection procedure after the Boundary Commission have released their updated proposals. After this, if the constituency has been abolished, then there will clearly be no vacany.

With all available noise coming out of Number 10 suggesting that the next election will not be until 2024, and with the Chancellor’s Income Tax cut last week judiciously targeted for two years away, boundary changes will likely be in place by the time voters next go to the polls. What that means for candidates chosen on existing boundaries is unclear.

But it is a testament to the party’s bravery that it seeks to have candidates ready for an election in the near future, before the changes, even in spite of spiralling inflation, a cost-of-living crisis, and war in Ukraine.

Tom Harwood: Implementing the Planning White Paper will stem the tide of young people turning to Labour

7 Aug

Tom Harwood is a reporter for Guido Fawkes. He was a student at Durham University.

The housing crisis is real. It stunts young people’s progress and independence, drains pockets, breeds resentment, and helps twist one of the most entrepreneurial, go getting generations in history into a sulking blob of Labour voters. These are tangible societal ills that make the country worse for everyone. It is in the interest of all generations to put them right and fix this crisis, and a genuinely reformed planning system is the way to get there.

Housing demand is outstripping supply. That is blindingly obvious. Demand is high not simply through immigration, but because of longer lives, more split households, and even the fertility is up from its turn of the century trough. As, thank heavens, few are seriously suggesting a Swiftian Modest Proposal approach to dealing with the demand side of this equation, the answer has to lie with supply.

The housing market has been screaming for more building for decades with deafening price signalling, yet somehow something has got in the way. No one can deny that the money is there to build more houses. No one can deny that there is land to build more houses – indeed just 5.9 per cent of England is built on. When a concrete car park in North London is designated as ‘green belt’ land, and many genuinely green spaces are not, we know that something has gone horribly wrong.

That’s why yesterday’s White Paper for a planning revolution is so important. Under the plans for local zoning, actual communities will able to decide which areas are suitable for development (and which should be protected), as well as setting out local design codes to banish the kind of architectural atrocities that have given development such a bad name for so many people. New building in Bath should look like the historic buildings of Bath, not like soviet Stalingrad.

The Government’s plans, taking the cue from Sir Roger Scruton’s ‘Building Better Building Beautiful Commission, show that new development can be built beautifully. Proposals for almost automatic planning consent to be given to housing that fits community-approved guidelines will end the grotesque chaos of a multi-year objection-filled near impossible to navigate planning process bunging up a market that should be delivering.

Under the current broken system it’s largely only the big developers that are able to navigate the onerous red tape. The new zone proposals will take away their effective monopoly, allowing a genuine market to deliver for people.

One of the reasons behind Jeremy Corbyn’s surprising success in the 2017 General Election was a measurable surge from voters aged 25-45. In other words those who have to most contend with the nightmare of purchasing property. They were running to a false friend, but it’s easy to see why.

Over the last few decades, Tory after Tory has talked the talk on housing. They have recognised the electoral threat. Yet they have failed to deliver. “We are the builders” declared a triumphalist George Osborne at his party’s 2015 party conference. Just a couple of years later, an embattled Theresa May delivered a ‘Bricksit means Bricksit’ speech in front of a brick-painted lectern that at first-glace made it look as if she was standing in a chimney. At least the slogan letters didn’t fall of the wall behind her.

Yesterday’s new White Paper is materially different. It’s not facing the problem with the age-old erroneous approach of throwing around more taxpayer cash, or regulating away what little function the market already has. A complete overhaul of the system for the first time since the 1940s is what’s needed, and if this White Paper makes it in to law then this government may well have enacted the policy that delivers them a second term.