In this week's article for the Herald and Post I reflect on a tough result for the Conservatives...
Last week’s East Hampshire local election results were deeply disappointing for the Conservatives. We lost dedicated, hard-working councillors, and talented new candidates didn’t make it. I am really sorry that we have lost good people from these important roles, and especially so because of the circumstances. EHDC is a well-managed council, that has delivered strong taxpayer value; but there were wider forces beyond East Hants councillors’ control.
What happened in East Hampshire happened in many other parts of the country too, though support moved in different directions in different places. While Labour were the biggest winners nationally overall, there were significant gains too for the Liberal Democrats, and proportionately the biggest gainers were the Greens, who doubled their number of councillors. Independents and local initiatives found success too, such as here, in Whitehill and Bordon.
In local elections, many factors can be at play – a mix of local and national issues, and of course different people cast their vote according to different criteria. But it seems clear that a dominant feature in this election has been voters wanting to give a strong clear message to the central government and governing party.
It is vital we take a message like this extremely seriously, and with humility.
I do believe we are building trust, but last week reminds us there is still a long way to go. The situation remains difficult, especially with persistent inflation and the cost of living. But we do have historically high levels of employment, and the outlook is improving.
The government will stay focused on key priorities including halving inflation, cutting waiting lists, growing the economy, and keeping unemployment low.
Local government is responsible for so much that we all rely on, and councillors do essential work in democratic representation and ensuring local services meet residents’ needs.
To those who have lost their seats, I would like to thank you on behalf of so many who have benefited from the service you have given, and to say how sorry I am that things have happened as they have.
To those returning to the council, and new councillors of whichever party newly elected, I look forward to working together with you in the interests of all East Hampshire residents.
A final word on local democracy. More than 120 candidates put themselves up for election across the East Hampshire District. That is a big thing for anyone to do, but to have a democracy, for people to have a choice, someone has to do it. Thank you to everyone who took that step, and to everyone who exercised their democratic choice.