When I meet Conservatives from other parts of the country, they tend to think I have an easy job. 'Gloucestershire -they must weigh your votes there!' seems to be a commonly expressed view. Sadly, not so. Only three of Gloucestershire's six MPs are Conservative and until 2005 Conservatives had been in opposition on the County Council since 1985.
One of the key ways we set about changing that was through innovative policies. We knew from canvass returns that crime and the fear of crime was one of the key issues for Gloucestershire people. This was true in both rural and urban areas. At the same time, a lot of people were keen to tell us that doing something about it wasn't our problem. Labour and the Liberal Democrats refused to take any action - they preferred to blame the police. Even some Conservative colleagues thought that, because crime was 'the police's job', we could ignore it. For two reasons I disagreed.
Firstly ideologically, I've never been a fan of councils passing the buck or evading responsibility for the problems people in their areas face. A council leader's job is just that, to lead, not to hide behind statutory responsibility. Secondly, tactically, I knew if we were the only party addressing the problems facing people in the county, then we'd be more likely to win the election!