Cllr David Fothergill is the Leader of the Conservative Group on Somerset Council
Somerset is an important part of our Conservative heartland but events this year have shown us that we can never take it for granted. The yellow peril is a real thing, and we need to act now to stop it. To do so, we have to pick the right leader to take our Party forward – and that has to be Rishi Sunak.
Until May, I was the Leader of Somerset County Council. We had achieved a great deal. Working with Rishi as Chancellor and our local Conservative MPs, our successes ranged from the funding of the £100 million Bridgwater Tidal Barrier – which will protect 13,000 homes and businesses from flooding – to town deals for Bridgwater and Glastonbury, supporting the regeneration of Yeovil and Taunton through the Future High Streets Fund and pushing forward the reopening of Wellington Railway Station.
By the early hours of May 6th though, it became very obvious that we were heading for a period in opposition. The Liberal Democrats had made huge gains across our region, a trend we had also seen in the recent by-elections in North Shropshire, Chesham and Amersham, and which later continued in the Tiverton and Honiton by-election. We need to put a stop to it now.
Sunak is the person that can restore trust in politics and politicians. People trust him and they know that he’s competent. He has a proven track record of getting our country through an economic crisis and he has a plan to tackle inflation, grow the economy, and cut taxes.
But more than that, Rishi understands the issues that we are facing. Polling is very clear that he is the most popular candidate with the public. He is the most popular candidate in the seats won by the Conservatives in 2019. He is the person that can reunite both our Party and the public – and beat both Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
As for what has been said in the press in recent days, the latest Savanta Comres poll of Conservative councillors – the single most accurate poll in the 2019 leadership contest – shows that the gap between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss is within the margin of error. With a significant number of those that are undecided, there is everything to play for.
In areas like Somerset, we are being hit hard by the Liberal Democrats on everything from water quality to trade deals, planning, and the support that we give our farmers. Whitehall hasn’t always understood the needs of rural communities and voters like us, but Rishi does.
If you look at other by-election losses to the Liberal Democrats – like Chesham and Amersham – it is clear that our planning system is a problem for us electorally. Rishi’s commitment to protect the Green Belt, in stark contrast to his opponent’s who has pledged to build a million homes on the Green Belt, shows that he gets it.
As we’ve seen in Somerset, we now need a leader that holds onto the seats we won in 2019, but also regains what we have lost. If we as Conservatives are to win a historic fifth term, we need to make sure that it is Rishi moving into No10 in September. This is a crucial moment for our party, and the stakes have never been higher. When I receive my ballot this week, I’ll be voting for Rishi Sunak.