CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Tory members urged not to quit party in wake of ‘out of touch’ election campaign

Chairman warns of Labour dominance in Camden

25 July, 2017 — By Richard Osley

Giovanni Spinella and fellow Conservative councillor Siobhan Baillie

CONSERVATIVE members in Hampstead and Kilburn are being urged by organisers not to cancel their membership in the wake of the failure to secure a majority at Theresa May’s snap general election, despite a candid admission that the party’s campaign had proved “out of touch with the lives and concerns of Londoners”.

In an astonishingly frank letter to the Tories’ local members, constituency chairman Gio Spinella said supporters on the ground in Camden had been “let down by our national party”.

The Conservatives were left stunned by the margin of the defeat in the north of the borough at the election in June, which saw Labour MP Tulip Siddiq turn a slender advantage in what has recently been a marginal constituency, into a safe seat with a majority beyond 15,000 votes.

The most concerned Conservatives fear the swing towards Labour could wreck their chances of gaining council seats at next year’s Town Hall elections, and even put some of the wards it has traditionally held at risk. In neighbouring Islington, the Labour group is so dominant that it holds all but one council seat in a set-up which even some its own supporters believe is unhealthy. Opposition parties, already heavily outnumbered in the Camden council chamber, are desperate to avoid a ­similar scenario when the borough goes to the polls next May.

Cllr Spinella was writing in his annual appeal to members to renew their membership and pay the party fees which will help fund the local campaign running into those elections.

“Rarely has it been more difficult to be a London member of the Conservative Party. But just as rarely has it been more necessary to be one,” he said. “The results of the last general election in the capital have been difficult for our party, more so than nationally. Labour’s success is there for everyone to see. Between their control of Camden and Brent councils, the MPs and the mayoralty of London, their grip of our area is tightening. And their dominance has been made easy by a Conservative national campaign in the last general election that suggested a Conservative Party out of touch with the lives and concerns of Londoners in general, and Hampstead and Kilburn constituents in particular.”

He added: “Let down by our national party and faced with Labour dominance locally, it would be easy to pack it all in. To decide to give up on politics – even in the simplest form of being a party member – and to sit back, hoping to be spared the worst of Labour’s excesses to come. I am asking you to not take the easy route. I am asking you to stand fast in this time of great peril, not just for our party but for local democracy itself.”

The tone of the message is an almost complete reversal of the local confidence apparent at the Hampstead and Kilburn constituency’s annual “blue rosette” fundraising dinner in which the guest speaker Jacob Rees-Mogg told the membership: “It’s a good time to be a Conservative, a remarkable time. It is as strong as it has been since the heyday of Margaret Thatcher, the dominance we have on the political scene and the pygmy nature of our opponents.”

Cllr Spinella told the New Journal that he would always be frank with members, and that was reflected by the content of his letter. His message added that the local branch now needed to “work within our national party to ensure that never again is any member or voter asked to vote for us despite what our manifesto says, instead of because of it”.

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