Susan Hall is the Leader of the Conservative Group on the London Assembly and a councillor for Hatch End Ward in Harrow.
On learning of our victory in Harrow my (non-political) friend called exclaiming ‘What luck!’
It’s anything but luck.
Instead, a prime example of a community actually taking local politics seriously.
Harrow, previously branded the ‘officer led’ council, has been plagued with Labour in-fighting and rampant money wasting, squandering the opportunity their party had a few years ago. It should not take an administration in shambles and an angry electorate voting to change what has failed them, for local voters to vote for local issues.
This is not to lay the blame at the door of the millions of voters up and down this nation voting for the reasons they decide to. It is to challenge the long history of media discourse around local elections and how they present the locals as primarily a mirror, reflecting and providing insight into national politics.
So much talk around local politics is in relation to whichever dominant political party finds themselves with the top job and most MPs, which does a disservice to the thousands of hard-working councillors tirelessly serving their respective communities. Branding local politics as ‘lesser’ and only in relation to the ‘major league’ of MP Politics creates a top-heavy system, where ‘moving up’ in politics can become a powerful driving ambition. Colouring decision making, rather than working to tackle the job at hand and serve the communities that put them there. Again, a Conservative chosen as the first directly elected Mayor of Croydon is a cause for celebration, but we must find a way to get here without the upheaval and anguish that came before that electoral decision.
So let’s look at Harrow and why we did win; under Labour, services have been dreadful and Harrow taxpayers pay the third highest council tax in London. The unpopular ‘Low Traffic Neighbourhood’ and costly cycle schemes that had to be reversed at further expense are but one example of Labour’s woeful mismanagement.
These have however brought us fabulous new activists who have been crucial to our campaign and hopefully next time round will be standing for us in the Council. New high rises have wrecked the look and feel of our borough and getting any response from council officers is harder than getting Keir Starmer to realise that he is a total hypocrite, thus a change was both required and inevitable.
My friend, not understanding my Starmer gripe, other than what has already made headlines, emphasises the problem. In a saturated world, we need to cut through in new and innovative ways to get our message across to those outside of the political bubble. All too few take any interest in politics and don’t fully understand that national and local politics are very different.
MPs and councillors are responsible for completely different things. Residents in Wandsworth and Westminster pay low Council tax and have great services, they have not lived under a Labour controlled council in years and thus are unaware of the harm done by hideously run councils, I hope for their sake they aren’t about to find out, but I won’t be betting on it.
However, in areas where people see their hard-earned money being wasted by badly run Labour Councils, they understand that things must change. Harrow and Croydon are testament to that. With the scandals over Croydon’s mismanagement of finances and the latest news of two million fraud being investigated by Police in Harrow it’s not a surprise that residents want a change.
Sadiq Khan is another Labour Politician who doesn’t seem to understand that money does not come from the Labour money tree, it’s hard earnt taxpayers’ money. Wasting so much of his £19bn budget and then pleading poverty to the Government he so frequently scorns. Like a child talking back to a parent, then demanding their pocket money, Khan so often bites the hand that feeds him.
One of Khan’s ridiculous ideas of charging motorists for driving in and out of London has worried many in outer London. This would damage businesses and be a massive burden to everyone but particularly those of us in the outer Boroughs so frequently disregarded by this Mayor. The silver lining of current cause and effect electoral results potentially predicts that Khan’s mismanagement of London will be his loss in a few years’ time. Despite the loss of fantastic councillors and flagship Councils I really do not believe that we Conservatives have lost London as some, especially in the media, are happy to say. We have got so many strong activists and dedicated councillors ready to take London politics forward in the years to come.
In Harrow we must thank our wonderful diverse communities, Bob Blackman is a fantastic constituency MP and people trust him, over time this has made a real difference to us electorally. We have new Tamil Councillors who will ingratiate us into their culture and provide essential diversity of thought and perspective in Harrow and indeed further across London. We are the party for the workers and entrepreneurs who do not want their hard-earned money wasted. These days, especially in London, one must be wealthy to afford Labour’s expensive mistakes and woke virtue signalling. I have every confidence that Westminster, Wandsworth, and Barnet will be returned to Conservative control, I just hope we won’t have to spend years repairing the devastation I fear will be wrought by Labour’s poor leadership and unwise spendthrifts.
We must celebrate our wins, but we must also reflect on how we can better serve and persuade voters to make informed decisions. Perhaps through our own dedicated storytelling we can fly the flag for why local politics is not simply a stop along the way, nor a way to protest the direction of the MPs and National Governance, but instead a chance to pick the leaders of each community who make a real and tangible impact on each and every life.