Cllr David Taylor is a councillor in Havering. He is also an accredited PR practitioner, with a focus on the charity and social housing sector.
Over the last few elections, Conservatives have had it easy. Brexit was the number one issue for a lot of the public and Labour were never going to win that argument. All we had to do, to secure a Conservative government, was to wave the Union flag harder than the rest. This worked in local government too. During my local election campaign, in 2022, residents still wanted to talk about Brexit.
But Brexit is slowly vanishing into the rear-view mirror and that just happens to be coinciding with the Labour Party accelerating past Conservatives in the polls.
Why? Because poor kids can’t eat flags.
An estimated 4.2 million children are living in poverty in the UK, according to The Big Issue. That’s a third of all kids. 44 per cent of those in single-parent families are in poverty. 48 per cent of those from black and ethnic minority groups, according to Child Poverty Action Group. These families are being hit by rising council taxes, a tax on movement in the form of ULEZ, and social housing repairs falling short.
This is horrific and we need to be talking about it. Conservatives need to be ashamed that this has happened under our watch and urgently focus our attention on defeating poverty. We need to get to work on reducing the cost of living.
As a councillor, I’m elected to represent my residents on local issues. To stand up and fight for them in the Town Hall. When I speak to them about what local issues concern them, the cost of living is right up there.
Havering Council recently tried to double the cost of parking permits on the sly, Conservatives fought a campaign and got this reversed. The Resident’s Association/Labour coalition administration tried cutting bin collections to fortnightly, whilst hiking council taxes. We fought that and we saved weekly bin collections. Despite our Council not standing up to Khan on ULEZ, Conservatives have made sure the people of Havering are heard loud and clear. Our alternative budget proposed a reduction in town hall executive pay in favour of a Havering scrappage scheme.
Conservatives in Havering are, despite being in opposition, fighting to keep the cost of living low and the quality of services high.
I get more thanks on the doorstep for this than for any national immigration policy. Residents are pleased to see Conservatives who are tackling the issues that impact them the most. This is the sort of work and campaign that will win us elections.
Don’t get me wrong, immigration is a hot topic. In a poll of 200 of my residents, 41 per cent put it as an issue here in Romford. But that was behind crime, ULEZ, and overdevelopment. More importantly, a lot of my residents were very put off by the way Conservatives talk about immigration. We’re losing the undecideds and the floating voters.
Lee Anderson may be saying what many people think, Suella Braverman may be acting tough, but we’re making more noise about immigrants than any other topic. This will resonate with the more right-wing of our party, but it won’t resonate with those attracted to a middle-ground Labour.
The Conservatives have a record of accomplishment in delivering in local government, and of sound economics nationally. Rishi’s slow and steady management of the economy looks to be working. Our growth has just been upgraded to show that our economy grew faster than any EU nation. The economy is repairing. But we’re not talking about it.
People on the doorstep are not hearing about the great work of Conservatives, because the voices of a few loud controversialists are dominating the party messaging and the airwaves.
I recently spoke to a resident about the news of our economic recovery, post-Covid. “Did you know we recovered faster than Germany or France?” I asked. “It doesn’t feel like it,” he replied. It was the first he heard about it. But, he does know what we’re doing about illegal immigrants and would sum up the policy as “naff all”. Local hotels are full of refugee claimants waiting to be processed, boats cross every day, numbers are out of control. Conservatives are not doing a good job of tackling immigration. So, why are we shouting about it?
It’s time for Conservatives to adopt a new campaign for the forthcoming election. We must quieten down on the immigration rhetoric and ramp up the noise around our economic recovery and lower council taxes. It is time for Conservatives to talk about defeating poverty, ensuring no kid goes hungry, providing people secure homes and creating jobs. We must talk about slashing the cost of local government, ensuring that people get to keep more of their wages instead of it being taken to bulk up the pay of town hall executives.
Nationalism is when we’re talking more about immigration than we are about child-poverty. It’s when local councillors stop talking about council tax and parking charges to instead focus on flying a flag above the town hall.
With a third of all children in poverty, next time you knock on a family’s door tell them about what Conservatives, locally and nationally, will do to ensure their kids can eat.
Lower council-tax locally, tackling inflation nationally. Fighting movement taxes in London, creating jobs in every region of the UK.
That’s what Conservatives are good at. That’s what people expect from us. Once we’ve got kids eating, then we can worry about flags.