Well, as I expected, the Esher & Walton executive committee approved the shortlist of 6 candidates to succeed Ian Taylor as the Conservative candidate for this constituency at the next election. The members were lobbied before the meeting by a local action group seeking a local candidate but the original 6 shortlisted candidates (with Chris Emmet replacing Liz Truss) will now go forward to the open primary on 21st November.
Personally, I am very grateful for all the support which I have received from many local party members and for the sympathetic messages sent to me since the shortlist was announced. But it is now time to move on and it is very important that as many people as possible come to the primary and hear the candidates and make a choice. Boycotting the meeting because there is no local candidate on the platform would be counter-productive. We still need to have the best person available, wherever they come from. Registration is still open at www.esherwalton.com .
When you are sitting in the warm sunshine, contemplating sparkling whitewashed chimney stacks jutting out against a clear blue sky, it’s easy to brush off disappointments and to conclude that, all in all, life is good. The children play happily on the beach, there’s some chilled wine in the fridge and no work in prospect for a few days. Just what you need as the weather turns cold in England and the clocks go back.
That’s where I was when I heard from my fellow candidate Mark Ashley-Hacker that there were no local candidates on the shortlist for Esher & Walton. Clearly from the local papers which I scoured on my return, this decision is not popular and the usual websites, such as Conservative Home and the Thames Ditton Residents’ Association have long threads on the issue. Tomorrow the Association’s Executive Council meets to decide whether to approve the list to go forward to next month’s open primary. As Mark and I have a vested interest in the outcome of that meeting, we are quite rightly not allowed to attend. Some enterprising local voters have started an on-line petition in order persuade the selection panel to think again.
I stick by my view that a local candidate would be best for this constituency, particularly so close to the election. Now anyone reading this might say, “oh well, he would say that, it’s just sour grapes” and I can understand that. Obviously I haven’t seen the CVs of the successful candidates but I have done some web-based research on them and there’s no doubt that each of them has something to offer this constituency. Equally obviously I’m disappointed at not making the shortlist myself but that is politics and you should not get involved if you cannot accept setbacks. No-one has a divine right to a safe seat in Parliament.
So, unless something drastic happens tomorrow I will be going to the open primary as an ordinary voter and will cast my vote for the best person there on the night. And then back to the job for which I have been elected – representing the electorate of Cobham Fairmile. And a thank you to Spain, for softening the blow a little.
All political parties need to raise money in order to put their message forward to the public. The media tends to pick up on the big players – the unions, big business, showbiz personalities – but for local parties the money has to be raised locally. The local Conservative party here in Esher & Walton does not receive any money from Conservative HQ – in fact they expect us to send a set sum, known as a “quota” to them.
So tonight I am off to be the quizmaster in our own “Super Supper” – what we hope will be a pleasant evening with a meal, a quiz and a raffle. A raffle is the sine qua non of a Conservative function and tonight we are lucky to have some attractive prizes to give out to the lucky winners. These events require a great deal of planning and a lot of time from the volunteers who will set up the room, cook and serve the food and clear up afterwards. Without them, local politics would grind to a halt and in my view their public service is just as important as that given by elected politicians. Indeed in many ways the volunteer’s work is greater, becasue they seek no public recognition to what they do.
Tomorrow I am going on holiday for a week with my family and so there will probably be no posts for a few days. Let’s hope the sun shines!
Back in July I blogged about the cap imposed by the Government on Surrey Police’s budget. Last week we all had the tangible proof of this – new Council Tax bills showing the reduction, together with a note from the Chief Constable setting out his response to the imposed cuts. He stressed that he will continue to police Surrey in the interests of its residents, and if that means missing some Labour-imposed targets, the so be it.
On Thursday I had the chance to question Ian Dyson, currently Assistant Chief Constable of the Surrey force. He expressed mystification as to why the Government had acted as it did, a sentiment I share entirely. However, and here’s the good news, he assured me (and the public meeting which he and I attended) that front-line services would not be affected. Extra resources will be directed to neighbourhood teams tackling anti-social behaviour, and the force will continue to invest in the number-plate recognition cameras designed to spot the London-based criminals responsible for 60% of offences carried out in Surrey.
Our local force deserves our full support, particularly in the difficult circumstances in which they find themselves now.
I have been watching David Cameron’s speech to the Conservative party conference. He spoke about the failures of Big Government. He delivered a withering attack on Labour’s record on eradicating poverty. He looked beyond the current difficulties: the need to mend the broken economy, to fix our broken society and to sort out our broken political system, and focussed on the kind of country we might enjoy after the Conservatives have been in power for a while.
He set out a vision of a world where achievements are credited to policemen, doctors, teachers and indeed every one of us, rather than to “the Government” or “the Minister”. A world where the individual’s efforts are rewarded and where the Government assists the individual rather than prescribing what he or she could do. “If you save money your whole life, you’ll be rewarded. If you start your own business, we’ll be right behind you. If you want to raise a family, we’ll support you. If you’re frightened, we’ll protect you.If you risk your safety to stop a crime, we’ll stand by you. If you risk your life to fight for your country, we will honour you. Ask me what a Conservative government stands for and the answer is this, we will reward those who take responsibility, and care for those who can’t.”
That is a Government which I would like to serve as a Member of Parliament.
Perhaps the most memorable passage of the speech though was when he referred to the loss of his son Ivan. With an audibly breaking voice he said this:
“For me and Samantha this year will only ever mean one thing. When such a big part of your life suddenly ends nothing else – nothing outside – matters. It’s like the world has stopped turning and the clocks have stopped ticking. And as they slowly start again, weeks later, you ask yourself all over again: do I really want to do this? You think about what you really believe and what sustains you. I know what sustains me the most. She is sitting right there and I’m incredibly proud to call her my wife.”
This man will be a great Prime Minister. Not least because he is a human being who has experienced the greatest pain and loss. Today he demonstrated beyond doubt why he deserves his chance to lead the nation.
I’m very glad I went up to Manchester, even if it did involve me spending far too much time in my car. Firstly the mood up there is fantastic – no doubt due to the fact that the party is doing well in the polls but more importantly there is a genuine feeling that we are on the right track, addressing the issues people want to hear about and offering some genuine answers to the country’s problems.
Secondly the place is absolutely heaving – not just with the usual party hacks but there are thousands of lobbyists, journalists and businessmen wanting to find out what a new Conservative government would do. I remember only 5 years ago the hall would be half empty, there were hardly any exhibitors and the mainly elderly activists wore glum expressions. Not any more. David Cameron has turned the party round, has given us purpose and direction and a belief in ourselves. Vitally though we are a young party again – there were lots of twentysomethings there having a great time. Now I am looking forward to hearing what Cameron has to say tomorrow – 2pm if you have the chance to watch him.
Today I am off to Manchester to spend a day at Party Conference. I’m going to see Grant Shapps MP, the shadow housing minister to discuss the Party’s draft housing policy and I hope to catch up with Dan Hannan MEP, and Theresa Villiers and Greg Hands, MPs who are old friends of mine. This is the last conference before the election and I expect there will be further details announced of our manifesto commitments.
I’ve then a meeting tomorrow in Esher with three local housing associations, Full Council on Wednesday and the half yearly meeting of the Cobham & Downside Residents’ Association on Thursday. Busy week ahead.