Nicholas Bryars is Chairman of City of Leicester Conservative Association (COLCA).
I now understand how Sir John Major must have felt on 2nd May 1997 when he went to watch a cricket match at the Oval having led the Conservative Party to its greatest defeat since the Great Reform Act. I had what feels like a comparable experience having led the Conservative Party in Leicester to a catastrophic defeat in the recent elections.
We lost the Leicester South by-election, the Mayoral election and we went from having had eight councillors elected in 2007 to just one now. Indeed, Labour now has 52 councillors out of 54 with just one Liberal Democrat. The question arises as to whether there are any lessons to be learned from this defeat about the Conservative Party’s continuing woeful performance in many cities outside of London.
My old friend and mentor the late Professor John Ramsden (the Party’s one-time official historian and author of An Appetite for Power and Man of the Century: Winston Churchill and his Legend since 1945) said to me after the 1997 defeat what political parties have to do in this situation is to look at themselves really deeply by way of an examination of their attitudes, principles and then policies. In the local context of a Conservative Association such as COLCA this might be adapted as attitudes; principles, policies and organisation.