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Taking on Lib Dem pavement politics

EithneCllr Eithne Webster, of Tandridge District Council, reports on her campaign to gain a seat from the Lib Dems in the Surrey County Council elections

You might perhaps think erroneously that Surrey is as blue as it gets. Affluent commuter towns and picture perfect villages should be bedrocks of Conservative support. This is true to an extent – all our MPs are Conservative – but the time has gone when celery sticks with a blue rosette would be elected no problem.

At a local level the Lib Dems have been nipping at out heels and could easily eat into our support – after all who would have guessed that Eastbourne and Lewes would fall victim to the yellow peril.

Below I will share how I intend to fight the Lib Dems as we gear up to a tough fight in 2013 for County Councils. The importance of these contests cannot be stressed enough; we cannot afford to do badly nationally as we head into 2015. More importantly however, we cannot let good Conservative councils who provide better value for money for hard-pressed taxpayers to come under threat either.


The Conservatives unexpectedly lost Caterham Hill in 2009 when the Lib Dems fielded a very popular local candidate. In recent years the Lib Dem vote has tended to remain steady whilst the Conservative vote fallen. I myself won my District seat in May 2010 against this trend with frenetic campaigning and no doubt buoyed by extra Conservative turnout for the general election.

In addition, whilst UKIP’s national ascendancy has alarmed many in Conservative ranks of late, we Caterham Conservatives have felt their impact first hand. We may not have won the County Seat in 2009 anyway, but without UKIP hemorrhaging our support we could have done a lot better.

The Lib Dems do have certain advantages on the Hill; all their district councillors and the county councillor also sit on the Parish Council and so are extremely well known. However, it is an unknown factor whether Labour will begin to make its own comeback on the Hill and therefore may split the
Lib Dem vote. The District Seat was Labour until 2000, although new estates have changed the demographic since then.

My campaign, therefore, has two main features – to become well known all throughout Caterham Hill Division to prevent the Lib Dems being the sole local choice, but also to get Conservatives who may sit at home or vote UKIP to come out and vote for me.

Pavement Politics

The election for Surrey County Council may not be until May, but I have already been out and about in the Division to raise my profile. I dispatched my In Touch throughout the Division in December and will be campaigning tirelessly on local issues.

A particular concern in this area is planning and overdevelopment. We are bordered by the Green Belt which is sacrosanct while the old Caterham Barracks and St Lawrence’s Mental hospital sites have resulted in almost a thousand new homes. Many longer established residents see the
effects of this development as negative. They cite congestion, scarcity of parking, strain on schools and doctors as the unwelcome effects of development.

At the same time, there remain in Caterham a number of older brown field sites blighting the streetscape. Balancing the legitimate concerns of preserving the greenbelt without imposing excessive strain on the areas where development is permitted is an increasing challenge. I also wish to help local schools to become better schools. I have spent many years in education, primarily as a teacher and latterly working as a schools inspector, so I know first-hand the difference a good and rigorous education can have on children.

I will therefore support the local efforts to deliver greater choice in education provision. This may be through an extension of academies or through helping schools stay within the county framework. As a County Councillor I can serve the interests of our local community on these issues fully. I hope that as the Conservative candidate, I can show the electorate the advantage of a councillor who belongs to the party of Surrey’s leadership.

I have brought my family up in Caterham and care deeply about the community I am fortunate call home.

Getting Conservatives to vote

In all likelihood voter turnout will be low so I need to get Conservatives out to vote for  me. The biggest problem is that Conservatives may sit at home due to dissatisfaction with national issues. Therefore I’m striving to remind people that at a local level, local politics matters. I have therefore been involved heavily with the young people of Conservative Future who are helping to visit Conservatives and to convince them to vote. I want to let our base know that they will have a friend in County Hall. I intend to push for the best of Conservatism – value for money and to improve schools.

For those traditional Conservative voters who may have entirely reasonable concerns about the increasing role of the EU in our lives. I hope they have been heartened by recent speeches concerning the proposed changes to our relationship with the EU. It is important for such residents to realise that a vote for UKIP locally, may have the unintended consequence of strengthening the most pro-European of all the parties, the Lib Dems!!

We need Conservatives in local government so that we can serve our local communities as local government goes through a period of stringency, brought about in many cases by the previous Labour Government’s profligate spending of other people’s money. In public life it is my belief that we should always remember that many people have to work long hours in unpleasant jobs to pay their taxes before they can start to work for the money they can take home to support their own families.

Wherever you live, please go out and help your Conservative candidates, because frankly we can’t trust anyone else with our county halls


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