Saturday, 24 September 2016

Look Right, Look Left, Look Left Again and Keep Looking Left



Others have said it before (www.conservativehome.com/its-time-to-make-a-radical-offer-to-the-old-coalfields), I've said it before (conservativehome.com/never-give-up-on-the-conservative-coalfield-challenge) and I'll say it again, it is imperative that Conservatives keep up the fight in the cities, the industrial north and the coalfields. These areas are the traditional strongholds of the Labour vote and with Jeremy Corbyn emboldened by his increased mandate to lead the Labour party, the importance of our job to oppose them in these regions takes a renewed significance

After his first win there were jovial tweets, Facebook posts and blogs about how his leadership is great news for the Tories and how we will be in Government until, well, until forever. A brief look at social media will show you that this is happening again. I agree, his leadership will leave his party in the Westminster wilderness for the foreseeable future but Westminster is only one aspect of how we're governed. Local Government is a completely different matter where the unstoppable rise of the left in the Labour Party can be translated into power in the Town Halls. Significant spending decisions and priorities are decided locally and with increasing devolution this is set to increase and without fierce opposition from local Conservatives they'll have it all to themselves.

A microcosm of this may well be unfolding already in Leigh, Andy Burnham's constituency which is set to become a significant signpost of Labour parliamentary candidate selections to come. Leigh is a very traditional Labour stronghold. When Labour's Henry Twist became Leigh's MP in 1922 it has been a Labour held seat ever since. Leigh is not overtly political but has a very large and stubborn core of Labour vote which successive Labour MPs have relied on to see them safely returned to Westminster time and time again.
Out on the doorstep you meet many of these core Labour voters who mostly do so out of habit, they simply can't see themselves voting for any other party. Some, of course, will pause and consider the implications of supporting a Corbyn led Labour party but most won't. It is this cohort which need to be persuaded to think again before X marks the spot on the ballot paper. Failure to engage with voters who will passively vote Labour whoever the leader is will see Corbyn sympathisers gaining power in Local, Mayoral, County elections across the industrial north. 

This means a lot to me and my neighbours who happen to live in Leigh. We are in Greater Manchester where Andy Burnham will be the Labour Candidate for the Mayor of Greater Manchester.  As I predicted (tory-story.blogspot.co.uk/corbyn-wont-run-country-but-he-can-ruin) a Corbynite has become Manchester Mayoral candidate and if you don't consider him a Corbynite then consider who was the only senior shadow cabinet member to stay loyal to Jeremy Corbyn during the summer coup. If he's elected this will trigger a by election in Leigh, one of Labour's safest and most treasured seats. It would be extraordinary if Momentum didn't put every effort into selecting one of their own to be Labour candidate if a by election were to take place and the signs are they are preparing now. 

It can't be coincidence that @momentumleigh twitter account was created on the day that Andy Burnham won Labour's candidacy for the Mayoral election. Shortly afterwards the Facebook page was launched. True enough Momentum are gearing up to make sure they have a continued presence in Westminster for some time to come, this just marks the beginning with talk of deselections across the UK. But to get to this point Constituency Labour Parties must be populated with compliant hard left members, these members go on to become candidates, then Councillors and could go on to lead Councils and influence our everyday lives in so many ways.

Conservatives are rightfully entitled to a moment of mirth. Corbyn's grip on Labour will see them in the wilderness for many years to come but once the dust has settled we must allow any complacency to evaporate. The hard work ahead is to stop the left wing take over of our towns and regions. With many comparisons with the 1980's and the Militant take over of cities like Liverpool, there is one crucial and significant difference. In the 1980's Labour had a leader which despised the hard left and expelled them. In 2016 and for a good many years to come, Labour have a leader who embraces them and will not stop them from doing everything they can to get their hands on power. It's never been a more critical time to be a Conservative activist.