Thomas Turrell is Deputy Chairman of Greenwich Conservatives, he is a former London South Area Officer and was an agent at both the 2015 and 2017 General Elections.
Last year I wrote on this site about London becoming the new Scotland for our party. The General Election results from the Capital have only reinforced such a view. What we saw was Labour tighten their grip on key marginal seats, run us close in seats such as Chipping Barnet and unexpectedly winning Enfield Southgate. In my article last year I argued that we need someone to rally behind, and that’s why now I strongly believes it is time to select our London Mayoral candidate.
The extent of which Sadiq Khan is dumping his election promises can be summed up in a single sentence: the guy needed to put a disclaimer on his campaign website to explain how policies during an election are not the same as his policies once in office. He has broken promises ranging from the amount of trees he will plant, to how many police officers we have on the street, to how many affordable homes should be built. Our group on the London Assembly are doing a sterling job of calling out the Mayor on these, and having our Mayoral candidate in place would enhance this.
Despite the broken promises, Sadiq Khan remains a largely popular Mayor. Labour candidates at the general election shunned Corbyn to instead rally behind him. It was he they wanted on their election materials not their Party Leader. Labour unites and rallies around the London Mayor; he is undoubtedly their leader in London. That’s why we need to select our Prospective Mayoral Candidate sooner rather than later.
Having a Mayoral candidate selected ahead of the local elections would allow us to build up a London-wide campaign machine to help us hold onto councils such as Barnet, Wandsworth, Kingston, and Richmond while working to win back areas like Hammersmith and Fulham, Croydon, Redbridge and Merton. Ever since Boris left office in 2016 there has been a vacuum in London Conservatives, and only a Mayoral candidate can fill it.
But it is not just the councils – it is the individual council wards; we cannot become extinct in parts of London. There are already too many councils in London with no Conservative representation. A Mayoral candidate selected three years out could be at the forefront of our campaign to win back council seats. A candidate we could all rally behind, who is popular with the activists, could be a real morale boost for volunteers fighting some of the toughest battles in the capital.
Starting the London Mayoral Campaign now will be a massive boost for our council campaigns. Firstly the applicants will want to be out campaigning in the hope of getting selected as the candidate, and secondly because once the candidate is selected we would have a means to pump out positive literature promoting why a Conservative presence is important across the capital – similar to ‘The Greater Londoner’ newspaper which associations were given in early 2014. Especially in split wards, it is paramount we produce a solid Conservative block vote to support the personal votes our councillors and candidates will build up.
Given it is the norm to select parliamentary candidate two or three years out from an election why do we leave it so late to select someone who has to turn out votes in 72 constituencies? We cannot afford to wait to start our London fight back now. Barnet and Camden, Ealing and Hillingdon and Merton and Wandsworth, these are three London Assembly constituencies which cover ground we have lost to Labour in recent years. These are the kind of London Assembly seats where the Mayoral Campaign could be won or lost. It’s not just about winning back City Hall – we should start thinking about who is going to lead the charge in winning back these vital London Assembly seats.
At London Mayoral Elections we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking we have to pick someone with tons of name recognition. Whoever we select will become an instant attraction to the media, they will immediately become a potential Mayor of London; we don’t need to wait for a high profile application. We had a strong line-up in 2015 to choose from, and any one of them would make a fantastic candidate for 2020, but we need to get them in place sooner rather than later.
Selecting a Mayoral Candidate now will allow that candidate to build up a strong relationship with the Conservatives on the London Assembly. It will give that candidate a chance to build up a relationship with volunteers, MPs and councillors, and most importantly the chance to have a three year long conversation with London – a conversation that I hope ends with a Conservative returned to City Hall. Sadiq Khan is an effective publicity machine, but partly because the personality politics around the Mayoralty means the Mayor is effectively unchallenged for three years of a four year term. Let’s put the challenger up sooner rather than later; let’s select someone we can rally behind in London; let’s start starting winning again in London.