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UKIP cost the Conservatives control of Oxfordshire

Keith Mitchell, the former Conservative leader of Oxfordshire County Council, stood down as a councillor this month but I am pleased that this has not stopped him blogging.

He has written a series of posts on the local election results in his county where the Conservatives just lost overall control. The emphasis is a lively account of the local personalities and factions and mechanics of coalition following the inconclusive result.

However Mr Mitchell also offers advice to David Cameron, who as well as being Prime Minister is also one of the county's MPs.

Mr Mitchell says:

I think you and your team need to be stronger and clearer about the limitations of coalition government as well as the benefits. You need to spell out what the Liberals are preventing us from doing however much that may threaten the coalition.

He adds:

Gay marriage, Europe, human rights never featured large on the doorstep but there is a perception of disconnection, of ministers being part of a metropolitan elite, far removed from day-to-day pressures. Margaret Hilda used housewife terms to talk about complex financial and economic issues.  Above all, it is how people feel that is determining public opinion: call it the economy; call it public wellbeing; call it job opportunities. Electors protested on Thursday about a perception of being “out of touch”.

There is a danger that Ministers lapse into jargon as they spend so much time with bureaucrats, Quangocrats and policy wonks.

Mr Mitchell is clear that though UKIP didn't get a single councillor elected they were crucial in helping Labour gain seats:

In Banbury, we lost 4 out of 5 Divisions to Labour.  There was only one reason for this: UKIP took 24% of the vote in these four Divisions and delivered these previously solid Conservative Divisions into the hands of Labour.  There is some irony that the voting pattern of local Conservatives, shifting to the right, delivered seats for Labour, a party of the left.

Who is the man most appreciative of UKIP's efforts:

Labour must be particularly pleased with the Banbury result which seems to have been spearheaded and bank rolled by Terry Davis an ex-MEP and, until recently, Chief Executive of the Council of Europe. Now living in Adderbury he seems to have been the focus of the Labour resurgence in the north and to have brought some discipline and organisation to their campaigning.

I think Mr Mitchell makes some good points. However if Mr Cameron wished to reply he might mention that the decision of Oxfordshire County Council to increase Council Tax may have been a factor in the election. Mr Mitchell says "frozen earnings" for those on tight budgets was a concern - doesn't it follow that the level of  Council Tax is also a concern? Those wanting a lower Council Tax might not have felt that voting Labour or Lib Dem would have been sensible but they might have noticed UKIP were backing this policy.

Mr Mitchell also offers a message to the Party Chairman Grant Shapps:

The collapse of the Merlin system left many canvassers having to work from the printed registers. This may not be too much of a problem in urban areas but, in villages where many roads and houses are not named, a proper register, sorted into walk order makes canvassing and leafleting so much easier and quicker. However, the real problem is in the follow-up to get out the vote.  Without Merlin or some other system for mailing and knocking-up there has to be a system. Where local campaigners created their own system, this took away from the time they could be out campaigning. I speak from personal experience as a candidate’s campaign manager.

Here Mr Mitchell is surely on to something. We are two years from a General Election. Does Mr Shapps believe Merlin is good enough? If not what is he doing to replace it?


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