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Charlie Elphicke MP: One week on, what are the lessons from the local elections?

Elphicke Charlie LargeCharlie Elphicke is the Member of Parliament for Dover & Deal. Follow Charlie on Twitter.

Last week the White Cliffs of Dover remained blue.  They did not go red. They did not go purple. The Conservatives beat off Labour and came first in the popular vote.

Why? Because we were clear what the election was about. We didn’t talk about the things we would like to do. We set out what we had done. The port Labour wanted to flog off to the French or whoever saved and forever England. The hospital Labour decimated about to be replaced with a brand new hospital. The Council Tax Labour had spent years jacking up frozen. Action to boost jobs and money with a regional growth fund and moving forward regeneration projects that stalled under the last failing Labour Government. The election choice was clear. A Conservative Party able to point to real achievements against Labour’s past failures and lack of new ideas. People don’t believe what you say, they believe what you do. And being able to point to a strong record of action made a real difference in a difficult set of mid term polls.

It’s the same nationally as it is locally. We should time and again point to Conservative achievements in office in contrast to Labour’s past failures and lack of ideas. A record of concrete action we can show that we have done in Government:

  • Economy: Growth of 0.3% last quarter showing the economy is healing, record low interest rates, the deficit down by a third and 1.25m new private sector jobs
  • Cost of living: A tax cut of £600 for 24 million people, with 2.2 million out of tax altogether, while Council Tax has been frozen for 3 years and the longest fuel duty freeze in 20 years with pump prices 13p lower than under Labour’s tax plans and energy companies are being made to put customers on the lowest tariff
  • Immigration: Has been cut by a third. In addition, tough action has been taken on sham marriages and to sort out the organisation of our border security. New measures being brought in to tackle benefits and health tourism from EU states and elsewhere – much of which is work in progress with stronger results likely to be seen over the next year that we will be able to point to as concrete achievements.
  • Welfare reform: Universal credit is action to make work pay and unleash the potential that is in every one of us, benefits are capped at the average earnings level of £26,000 while the Youth Contract has been set up to tackle youth unemployment.
So what of Labour? What do they have to say on any of the great questions of the day? Labour lack a credible economic policy. Voters feel the idea of borrowing more to borrow less is complete nonsense. Labour lack a credible leader – as Ed Miliband proved once again in his car crash World at One interview last week. They refuse to make any apology for the mess they made and have opposed every difficult decision the Government has had to take to sort out their mess. Small wonder then that Labour failed to make any breakthrough at the polls.

Which brings us to UKIP’s success.  UKIP did well. Yet it was not so much their policies on Europe that resonated on the doorstep. It was the fact that times have been so tough for so long and concern about immigration. With Labour counting themselves out of the credibility race, the votes of the exasperated didn’t really have anywhere else to go. With economic recovery and as voters see the results of tougher action on immigration, UKIP will find it harder to make progress. In addition UKIP’s success will mean greater scrutiny of their policies – for example their economic policies would leave a £120 Bn financial black hole in the public finances. Their policies would take us the way of Greece and Cyprus even faster than the Labour Party. Nor are UKIP particularly family friendly, believing that maternity leave should be axed.

The lesson I draw from these elections is that we do best when we are clear what we are for and the nature of the election choice. We will do best nationally when we are crystal clear about the election choice – what it is we have done and what we will do for the future. In sharp contrast with Labour’s continuing failure and UKIP’s lack of credible policies and policy detail that renders them unfit for national office. There is no cause for complacency – we will have to fight for every last vote – yet there is cause for optimism as so many of the necessary elements of the Conservative General Election case are present and the remaining pieces can be put in place over the next two years.


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