Panic amongst Conservative councillors up for election next Thursday: ‘We’re an endangered species…We’re doomed…It’s extraordinarily bad’

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There are some signs of panic in the ranks of Conservative councillors who are up for election next Thursday.

Councillor Alan Law of West Berkshire Council wrote to the Telegraph on 23rd April:

SIR – I am a member of an endangered species: a Conservative councillor standing for re-election on May 2.

Harry Phibbs on Conservative Home has been regularly talking to Conservative candidates on the ground, finding considerable disquiet:

…among most of the councillors and candidates I spoke to the prevailing mood was still downcast. Seasoned campaigners were shocked by the level of anger they encountered on the nation doorsteps – invariably from Brexiteers who felt betrayed.

One councillor in the East Midlands told me:

“I had somebody who was so furious he started getting a nosebleed. Even then he kept talking about the local Conservative MP letting him down.”

Someone from the North West, in a Conservative council, suggested that this week it was (an) even harder pounding than last week:

“The decision to hold the Euro Elections is a disaster for us. For a start, it confuses matters. People think we might be canvassing for them and then really go mad. Before we have a chance of talking about local issues they start the conversation by saying they will definitely not be voting for us in the Euro Elections.”

“Frankly, I think we are doomed. All our work on new housing, on infrastructure. It’s not what people are want to talk about. We don’t have UKIP candidates. But if Labour supporters vote and Conservatives don’t it’s not that hard to predict the outcome.”

In another Phibbs article he reported this statement from “traditional Conservative territory in the South-East”:

It is extraordinarily bad. We have seriously considered stopping canvassing for the time being in case it does more harm than good. Could we be annoying people, winding them up? Over and over again people are saying they will ‘never vote Conservative again.’ I’ve been campaigning for several years now and I have never encountered this pure rage on the doorstep before.

Another councillor from a rural district said:

I must emphasise that the problem is not just with Brexiteers. It is wider than that. It’s down to trust and there is very precious little of it left. There is this dismay at the incompetence and the duplicity. People coming on and saying one thing one week and then doing the opposite the next week.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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16 Comments

  • nigel hunter 28th Apr '19 - 11:15am

    Let’s not get too ‘excited and dream of a Tory melt down. If it happens we can then ‘stick the knife in’ as they have done to us in the past. Let us stick to hard campaigning and if the media ask us how many seats we will win say we are aiming for as many as we can get.

  • I’ve highlighted a partial comment from conservative home
    “Reminds me of the Lib Dems `What I say to them is `yes, I realise how frustrated you are with austerity and tuition fees – but these are the local elections this is who you are electing to be your local councillor who you want to provide local services` – err it didn’t quite go like that then – it won’t be going like that this time. ”

    Well what a tragedy the conservatives no longer have the Lib Dems to act as their whipping boys. I suspect call me Dave and Gideon bitterly regret shafting Clegg, Danny and co, but as the poster on conservativehome ended his comment

    “Sorry politics is a rough old game. The Conservatives did really well in the council elections of 2017 when `Brexit meant Brexit`. Now that it’s the opposite they’re going to do really badly.”

  • nigel hunter 28th Apr '19 - 11:32am

    W hat is the position of the Brexit party in both the locals and Euro’s? Will Tory Brexiteer’s voters stay at home in the locals or vote Ukip? If the EU elections take place will the Brexit party beat the Tories? Who are the Brexit Party EU candidates other than Ms Mogg and Widdicombe? What is Farage’s policies? He is not saying until after the elections. Is he hedging his bets? Will he be hoping for a seat to both disrupt the EU whilst feathering his own nest like before. Lots of questions.

  • What is important will it have any effect on our performance one way or the other. I await Friday with both hope and trepidation.

  • Few UKIP candidates are standing, so if anyone thinks I’ll pop out and vote UKIP they’ll be lucky to find a candidate in their ward to vote for. For info Lib Dems are fighting 53%

    “What’s more that rise of seven percentage points is better than Labour, up two (to 77%), the Greens, down eight (to 30%) or Ukip, down twenty-eight (to 16%). It also beats the Conservatives, although as they were at 93% last time, their three point rise is getting close to as large as it practically can be.”

    https://www.markpack.org.uk/158355/two-cheers-for-the-number-of-lib-dem-local-election-candidates/

  • Richard Underhill 28th Apr '19 - 12:23pm
  • nigel hunter 28th Apr '19 - 12:45pm

    That evolve politics info is from OCtober 2017. What has happened since?

  • John Marriott 28th Apr '19 - 1:32pm

    The Tories an endangered species? Not around here, mate? Back in 1995, when I fought my third North Kesteven District Council Election, the Tory candidates didn’t even have the word ‘Conservative’ on their leaflets. Many ‘Independents’ were elected, who eventually, surprise, surprise, emerged four years later as Tories.

    They’ve got braver since then, although, back in 2013, when UKIP were the second largest group on the Lincolnshire County Council – but not for long – it was clear that quite a few were actually closet anti EU Tories. Four years later, all had disappeared, except for a few who had even before the election, aligned themselves with the Conservatives, who won 58 of the 70 seats available.

    I shan’t be voting next week, a) because the choice in my ward is between a Tory and someone called a ‘Lincolnshire Independent’ and b) because I want to see both District and County Councils abolished and replaced with a Unitary Authority. What about the local Town Council? Well, I think the last time we had an election for any of the five, now six wards for our Town Council, other than the occasional mid term by-election, was in 1999. Local democracy? Pull the other one, please!

  • >That evolve politics info is from OCtober 2017. What has happened since?
    Probably a further decline in membership – specifically the under 30’s; unfortunately probably not a decline in the number of well-heeled off-shore supporters who keep throwing money at the tory party. One can only hope that those unnamed sources funding pro-Brexit groups have redirected monies that previously they would have thrown at the tories…

    It would be interesting to actually know. Either way, I suspect having to run two campaigns (local and EU elections) is going to seriously stain Tory party financies. I would be very wary of the Conservatives becoming converts to state funding of political parties…

  • According to a study at Queen Mary College London (Jan 2018) the average age of Tory members is 57. For Labour it’s 53 with Lib Dems at 52 and SNP 54.
    The study states that “Labour’s membership also comes nearer to gender parity than the other three parties’. Getting on for two-thirds of Lib Dems, and not far off three-quarters of Tory members are men. And, while it’s true to say that all four parties are disproportionately middle-class, it’s even more true of Tory and Lib Dem members, nearly nine out of ten of whom can be classified as ABC1”.

    Membership of all three GB parties is disproportionately in London and the South east

    For details see
    https://www.qmul.ac.uk/media/qmul/media/publications/Grassroots,-Britain's-Party-Members.pdf

  • Paul Barker 28th Apr '19 - 5:18pm

    The nosebleed comment made me lol but we should be wary of counting chickens before they are hatched.

  • Well, down in this Tory “one party state” of East Devon District Council, they have missed out on nominating 10% of the District seats, leaving one two member ward with 2 longstanding Lib Dem Councillors, including the Group Leader, unopposed. At Town Council level, we have 3 candidates elected unopposed, and one more will be automatically elected (6 candidates for 5 seats, including 2 Lib DEms)

    The coup de grace, however, is that the Tory Council Leader, having stood for re-election under that banner, has now announced his resignation from that party, “due to national underperformance” by his ex-party, and is even now sending letters to all his electors, explaining that if elected, he will sit as an Independent! Oh, and we also have another ex-Tory District Councillor standing for us this time round!

    So plenty of evidence from here of massive discontent, and this has shown on doorsteps too, where although many are clearly unhappy with all “politicians”, their particular ire is reserved for Tories and Labour. I can tell you we have received a much warmer welcome than in 2015, and I have been quite happy to go canvassing at present.

  • Talking to a friend of mine who’s a Tory councillor in North Lincolnshire, he tells me it’s very hard going. He’s fairly confident he’ll hold his seat, but feels Labour will take the council (currently 26 Tories and 17 Labour). The feedback he’s getting is that people who would normally support the Tories just won’t vote, because of their disappointment with Mrs May and Brexit. They can’t bring themselves to vote for a Corbyn led party and the Lib Dems are pretty invisible around here. Why have the Lib Dems given up in North Lincolnshire? Unfortunately, local issues are not getting much of a look in.

  • In 2011 before the local elections we had 16 councillors in West Berkshire. Therefore the best we can be expected to gain is about 11, but then the number of councillors is being reduced by 9. So out of the current number of about 47 the Conservatives should still be left with 27 leaving them still controlling the council. No way can this be classified as making Tory councillors on this council an “endangered species”. According to Wikipedia there were 5521 Conservative councillors elected in 2015, even if they lost a thousand they would not be an “endangered species”.

  • Mick Taylor 29th Apr '19 - 4:43pm

    In my area the Conservatives are non-existent at council level, even though they have an MP. Their candidate in my ward lives about 20 miles away and they have not a single candidate for our local town council which leaves those (contested!) elections largely a straight fight between us and Labour. They have only elected a councillor to the district twice since 1976.
    No real idea if we will make progress this time but four years ago we had an appalling result both at borough and town level, so it would be hard to do worse.
    Back out delivering the last minute leaflet in about half an hour. On target for 30,000 steps today, so I’ll sleep well!

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