Monday 7 May 2012

Moving on from last week's elections

In my experience as a councillor and campaigner the run up to all elections is frantic and exhausting.  Getting the balance between home-life and electioneering is almost impossible to achieve.  I’m not alone in needing several days to recuperate and recharge my batteries, clear up my work area and get on top of paperwork.

It is particularly hard accepting the loss of hard working colleagues because of the national swing against the Government & no fault on their part.

The most bitter pill to swallow is the nasty campaign here in Reading run both in Church and Peppard Wards, both personal - though only the first specifically against our Conservative candidate.  I’ll leave it to readers to judge the various post-election accounts of current and past councillors.  At least the latter malicious campaign (in Peppard) was unsuccessful!

It is galling however that to a large extent it is down to where one is selected for, together with the national picture, how electoral fortunes are likely to pan out.  In the Conservative Party, in common with others, we have strict rules over selection so that sitting councillors do not have an automatic right of re-selection.  This keeps councillors on their toes which of course is beneficial to residents.  I, like the others, had to go through the selection process.

The real test though is yet to come: will the electorate realise over the coming months they have been hoodwinked or not?  Is their newly elected local councillor a mere pawn or capable to stand up for their electorate come what may?  Did the electorate have a narrow escape perhaps in Peppard – judging by what has been written since?  That is for the electorate to gauge.

From my own viewpoint I know newly elected Jane Stanford-Beale worked exceedingly hard and will make an excellent councillor.  She has a formidable track record and is a superb addition to the Conservative Group.  In Thames Ward, my replacement, Ed Hopper, is a wonderful man.  He is thoughtful and resolute in his determination to improve life for residents.  Deservedly he receives an extremely positive reaction on the doorstep which I am certain he will live up to.

I hope my friends, Azam Janjua, Dave Luckett, and Emma Warman who sadly lost their elections will be back in 2014.  I am proud to have stood by Azam as he has had to withstand Reading Labour’s most disgusting personal campaign of recent history.  Four years ago I was struck by his personal following even though he was asking traditional Labour supporters to switch over with him to the Conservatives.  He has worked tirelessly and will be a great loss to his Church Ward fellow neighbours and residents.

Although Labour’s campaign in Dave’s home ward of Caversham wasn’t personal, it published inaccurate information, eg over Briant’s Avenue and also the supposed restoration of bus passes for pensioners: however Dave’s behaviour at the Count was impeccable (as was Azam’s and Emma’s).  He is incredibly positive about the future and I’m sure he will bounce back.

Emma, a gifted orator, will also be sadly missed on our benches over the coming two years.  I hope like the others she will continue working with the Conservative team and work towards a comeback in 2014.

I think all politicians are agreed that more has to be done to engage voters.  I am sure I’m not alone being infuriated and saddened on the doorstep with the reaction that people simply aren’t interested & don’t feel there’s any point in voting.  It is small comfort that Mapledurham, my new ward, had the best turnout across Reading.  It was only just over 41%.  Okay I have the best mandate of any RBC councillor, but it still means that just under 59% weren’t engaged sufficiently to bother voting.

I’ve been using this weekend to think out how best to engage with my neighbours & fellow residents.   I will continue to work hard at my job and trust that through my actions I will deserve my election as the sole representative of Mapledurham Ward.

Here is a clip from the night