Lisa Townsend is the Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey.
I was in Cardiff on Sunday, attending the National Police Memorial Day service, a very moving event with Forces from around the United Kingdom coming together to remember the five thousand officers who have died while on duty, since the police service was established.
This year, we included in our prayers the families, friends and colleagues of the eight officers who died in the last 12 months; the youngest was just 20 years old.
As the Reverend Liam Bradley said in his address, each and every one had started their “one day” with no knowledge that it was to be their last. But as the families so lovingly explained, “One day, dad went to work and never came home” or “one day my daughter was attending a call-out at the address of a man wanted by police, and never came home”.
A timely reminder of the sacrifice made not just by our police, but also those who love them.
It is easy sometimes to look around and see only the bad, the failures, the rotten apples. But as we head to Manchester this weekend, to gather in what may be the final conference before a general election, we must also reflect on the great things that we have achieved over the last 13 years in Government.
It seems as though every new day brings a headline about a potential new manifesto commitment: a welcome delay to the mandatory move to electric vehicles, the scrapping of the grossly unfair inheritance tax, much-needed updates to the exam system in schools. All of these are to be applauded and require a national approach to deliver.
The strength and commitment of our local representatives means that we have often delivered and achieved the best results when we are working closely with our communities.
This is certainly true of local implementation of previous manifesto commitments around policing, including the recruitment nationally of an extra 20,000 officers. This has relied heavily on PCCs holding chief constables to account and working closely with other local authorities to ensure services are available for victims of crime and the most vulnerable in society.
Whether it’s a strong local MP, councillor or PCC, local champions are vital to us having the best possible chance at the next general election, whenever it comes.
Of course, national polices around defence, foreign affairs, and climate change are important and have an impact on who people vote for.
But locally what I hear most on doorsteps is people talking about wanting to live in a safe community, where they can see a GP quickly and send their child to a good local school. And whether it’s government policy on the economy, the NHS or skills, these too are best delivered when we have local candidates listening and taking action.
Crime is an obvious example of a Conservative policy that is at its best when it is responsive to the needs of local residents and businesses. It’s why PCCs must, by law, live in our force area and must be elected by the electorate not of a ward but of the entire county or counties we represent.
PCCs across England and Wales are up for re-election in May and I would strongly encourage those on the candidates’ list to consider applying for the vacancies if they live in the force areas that are starting to be advertised now. Strong candidates with integrity, who are committed to public service and standing up for local communities, who can manage multi-million pound budgets and lead diverse teams, will find that it is a role that is both challenging and enormously rewarding.
Our council candidates and volunteers are also working incredibly hard ahead the next set of local elections, listening to residents and ensuring their voices are heard, whether in the council chamber, raising issues with me or with their local MP. These local voices are our strength as a party, and we are only ever as strong as we enable them to be.
Because yes, we can win the next general election on our manifesto promises and national policies. But we must also stand proud on our record: of local delivery and the local champions who work for us all.
And never forget, whilst planning for the future, that we do so thanks to those who came before, be they our police officers or anyone who commits themselves to serving the public.