Harrow Conservatives criticise Labour’s focus on ‘national issues’ after surprise victory

Harrow Conservatives refused to be drawn into declarations over the state of their party after it took control of the borough from Labour.

The Tories earned a surprise gain in Harrow, which has been Labour-controlled since 2010, turning a seven-seat deficit into a majority of equal size.

It was the party’s first gain in London and served as a much-needed boost after a night where Labour took high-profile Tory seats in Wandsworth, Westminster and Barnet.

The Conservatives’ national reputation has been struggling after ‘Partygate’ and the cost of living crisis, but Tory MP for Harrow East, Bob Blackman, believed Labour focused excessively on these issues.

He said: “The Labour Party ran everything here on national issues. They couldn’t talk about anything locally, and they got thrashed.

“We stuck to local issues that concerned the residents and we’ve won. You’ve got to stick religiously to the local issues because that’s what matters in council elections.”

Labour’s manifesto heavily criticised the Conservative government’s handling of the pandemic and included a “Respect for the Rules” principle, possibly to draw attention to Prime Minister Boris Johnson being fined for violating Covid-19 restrictions.

Nevertheless, Paul Osborn, the new leader of the Harrow council, lauded Harrow Conservatives’ focus on local issues as the party floundered beyond the borough.

He said: “We’ve shown you can win in London. You need to focus on local issues and listen to what your residents are telling you and deliver a package that is designed to help them with their day-to-day lives.

“You just keep plugging at the messages. You just keep talking about what local people care about.
“What we found is that they cared about the poor running of the council than anything else.

“To be the only gain in London is an amazing achievement.”

The Conservatives’ pledges for Harrow include reversing increases in council tax, introducing one-hour free parking to support local businesses and cracking down on fly-tipping.

They also plan to stop building high-rise flats and construct more houses instead.

Through Harrow, the Tories have proved they can still produce unexpected success, and the result offers hope for the party across London.

Blackman advises his colleagues to follow his borough’s example and concentrate on its electorate.
He said: “Overall, the residents have spoken. In my constituency of Harrow East, we have almost eliminated the Labour Party.

“In Harrow [the result] gives us the potential to hold my seat, and Ruislip and Pinner, but potentially gives us a platform to take Harrow West as well.”

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