“We don’t do politics here”
Surrey is represented by eleven MPs and all of them are Conservative. The vote splits approximately 60% Conservative and 40% everyone else. In Esher and Walton from a 74% turnout Dominic Raab, Conservative won 59% of the vote, the Labour candidate won 20% closely followed by the Lib Dem candidate. If you add all of the votes for all of the other candidates together it still wouldn’t top the Conservative vote.
So the question is – in this safe seat – who represents the non-conservatives including the non-voters?
Safe seats produce complacent MPs and that is true whichever party they represent. They don’t have to work hard for their constituent vote when they can rely on traditional voting habits. In the 2017 election, Dominic Raab failed to turn up to two of the three hustings. In fact, 75 Conservative candidates failed to turn up to hustings across the country which suggests there was something of a ‘stay at home’ policy in operation. Mirror/news/politics/no-show-tory-candidates
Complacent MPs serve no-one but themselves.
Political complacency becomes infectious in safe seats. The Esher and Walton Conservative Association (EWCA) are the only body with any influence over the MP they selected to represent us, yet this body repeatedly refused to acknowledge the disquiet felt by many, including conservative voters, at the non-attendance of their MP. Why should they take time to defend this safe of safe seats?
When those in control of the political process simply go through the motions it is unsurprising that others pick up the mood. Complacency leads to a democratic deficit where many simply put their head in the sand and wait for the inevitable result to deliver a ‘business as usual’ outcome.
I stood as an Independent Candidate in 2015 on an accountability platform. At the hustings, I put forward the idea that austerity was a political ideology and not a necessity. That in a recession you needed a fiscal stimulus, not cuts and that if we didn’t stand up for the poor and disabled cuts would eventually reach our own door. In 2015 people were still accepting of the ‘tightening belts’ mantra in order to ‘live within our means’ following the 2008 financial crash. Two years on there was a greater acceptance that cutting benefits while giving tax breaks to the rich has not served to restore the economy.
After seven years, Britain has lost patience with austerity. May’s cold insistence to a nurse that there was no “magic money tree” to end the public sector pay cap exemplified the Tories’ predicament. Having deferred George Osborne’s budget surplus target to 2025, much of the impetus behind austerity has already been lost. An ultra-fragile majority, Brexit and the economic downturn will combine to halt it altogether.
In 2017 I stood again to present an alternative narrative to the all-encompassing view that on issues such as the economy and Brexit the Conservatives were the only choice. Mainstream media repeated this message endlessly and initially, no one doubted the promised ‘landslide’ victory. This is not good for democracy as weak opposition leads to elected dictatorship. I explored the ‘strong economy’ narrative presenting alternative data and also argued that a hard Brexit would destroy our economy. There was certainly more appetite for this message this time around as people suffer from a combination of pay restraint, inflation and cuts to public services. But only a tiny fraction of the 60,000 voting public attend the hustings. There are no hustings in key conservative strongholds such as Weybridge St George’s Hill, Oatlands & Burwood Park and Stoke d’Abernon. Why not? These areas alone provide a block vote which could overwhelm all alternatives.
It is unlikely that Esher and Walton, indeed Surrey as a whole will ever be represented in parliament by anybody other than a Conservative. So if we want better representation we have to hold the Conservatives to account at elections and between elections. Welcome to a view from the sidelines. A platform for political observers in Surrey and beyond.