How local elections were won: Phil Taylor
Phil Taylor is a Conservative Councillor for Northfield Ward, Ealing
Ealing is called the bellwether borough as its local election results have prefigured the national polls for 10 of 11 general elections since the borough was formed. On 4th May the Borough's Tories achieved a swing of over 10% from Labour to Conservative. The Labour Group went down from 48 to 29, the Lib-Dems lost a seat to reduce their tiny group to 3 and 20 new Tory councillors marched into the council chamber. Our young, energetic leader, Jason Stacey rubbed his eyes and found himself leader of the council.
As a new candidate my focus was restricted to my ward, Northfield, around Northfield Tube station in the south of the Borough. We had three great candidates: David Millican, Mark Reen and myself. Last time the Labour majority was only 4.4%. We needed to pick up 100 extra votes each to get in.
Our campaign started in the autumn with survey canvassing. We were pretty sure that people were really not in favour of the West London Tram and fed up with the value for money offered by the old Labour administration. We talked to 2,500 residents across three wards. 78% did not want the Tram. 77% thought that the council was bad value for money. We even managed to get the survey results published in one of the local papers. The then Labour leader, Leo Thomson, commented, perhaps foolishly, on the results greatly enhancing their credibility. We did five leaflets, the last one of which pulled together lots of headlines from the local press that laid out how poor Ealing's old Labour council's record had been over the previous 12 years.
The local environment was a big issue for our electors and the Vote Blue, Go Green message worked for us. Graffiti has exploded in this part of Ealing. Residents of these relatively prosperous streets all notice that their roads, pavements, street lights and parks do not get prioritised. Our promise to double the level of road surfacing was very welcome on the doorstep. Education was not a huge issue. Nobody was concerned about social services even though this is a third of council spending.
It was a feature of talking to many old folk that they were disillusioned with politics. There was a small minority who regretted there was no choice locally, meaning no UKIP or BNP I guess. You got some sour-faced antis who would not give you the time of day but canvassing was great fun with the vast majority of people happy to talk and pleased to be visited by a candidate. The vast majority were also unimpressed by the current council or even downright angry. Whilst many non-Tories would not vote for us, many would rather stay at home than vote for the old administration. The LibDems were not trying in Northfield and Labour seemed to be either complacent or resigned. In the end our average majority was 980 on a very good turnout of 42.8%.
The new Tory council in Ealing is focussing on three main priorities:
- improving environmental services
- tackling anti-social behaviour
- achieving value for money and low council tax increases.