The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

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Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

London Hopes and London Matters

"Don't follow the crowd. Let the crowd follow you." So said Baroness Thatcher.

We have a tremendous opportunity to support hard-working Conservative Councillor candidates across London at next month's election. And for those candidates an opportunity to illuminate our people as to the reason we exist as a party too.

In attributing possible electoral defeat for the Conservatives at next month's London Local Elections, to the public's perception of the PM and Brexit, the Conservative Party may be confusing the national with the local. Its narrative omits to mention that few voters seem to be aware that there is an election at all, that many who are eligible to vote are unaware that they can and that many who do will not vote due to wider dissatisfaction with politicians from both parties. Low voter turnout in the May elections may well occur but as previous local elections only secured 30-40% turnout this should not be a unique cause for concern.

The causal issues of that turnout might be more to do with the electorate's voting disengagement from "local matters" and local politicians overall than signifying some wider dis-satisfaction at the national level. Westminster Conservatives for instance combine a proud technical record of delivering high levels of services with one of the cheapest Council Taxes nationally. If defeat is anticipated despite this managerial competence then this implies that Londoners "expect" to have these pragmatic outcomes anyway but do not always reward them electorally.

In any case "managerial competence" is what we expect from non-elected Local Government Officers. The voters expect their elected Politicians however to be passionate about local conditions surely but within an ideological narrative that combines both policy direction at the local level with a higher vision of what life can be like in the future when contrasted with its present or under its competitive political offerings. Conservatives might increase voter engagement by explaining the positive reasons for democratic participation and exciting them with an ideology that includes and is about them. Providing not just baseless hope as Labour appears to, but a Conservative vision for their lives overall and delivered by a working methodology and within a strategy that touches and engages them all.

Former Cabinet Minister and Chairman of our Party, Lord Tebbitt once said, "I grew up in the '30s with an unemployed Father. He didn't riot. He got on his bike and looked for work, and he kept looking till he found it."Far from separating issues relating to the PM or Brexit, thought then might be given to educating and leading our people as to why both have their interests at heart. If we succumb to the notion that demographic change in London precludes Conservative victory in it, then that says far more as to why Conservatives need to re-gain their confidence to get on their "ideological bicycles", shun the drive to pragmatism and steer their way to expressing who we are as a country, identifying what our distinguishing values are, and establishing who we want to be at home and what our place is to be in the world.

Thereby making the local element of that intrinsic to its national and international ones. This is easily within our grasp. We simply need to be "better, faster, truer" in our thinking than Labour.

The PM has shown her mettle over the Russia issue and beyond the most visible Remainers our quiet, decent and slow-to-anger people seem largely reconciled to the results of the referendum. They are entitled to speak of their Prime Minister during any election. As they are to express their legitimate concerns as to what EU Exit will look like and how it might affect them. We should welcome this and embrace them expressing their views too. Is that not what our peaceful elections are for and are we not as the most successful political party the world has ever seen, capable of educating and leading with the same, quiet confidence that made us so ?

"Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It's not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it's a day you've had everything to do and you've done it." Can we not do now in our local elections just as Baroness Thatcher taught us to ourselves?

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Monday, 23 April 2018