Tory members 'sick and tired' of defending MPs
One Conservative member told Jake Berry – who is also the MP for Rossendale and Darwen - they are “sick and tired” of having to answer questions about MPs’ actions while canvassing for local votes.
Another said that “what was going on down in London” – hinting at the scandals which brought down Boris Johnson’s government – had turned a previously safe seat in their area into a marginal one.
At a Conservative Party conference fringe event where members were able to meet the new party chairman, North Yorkshire County Councillor Mike Jordan asked how Mr Berry could help address the problems of former safe seats which have become increasingly marginal.
He said: “North Yorkshire was a lovely safe seat back before May. After May, we are now struggling. We have only got a majority of four and that was all down to what was going on in London – nothing to do with the hard work that was being done locally.”
Mr Berry said that all political parties have to be “realistic” about safe seats, adding: “I think we are in a slightly new political era and I think the idea of safe seats for political parties, safe council seats, is moving away from all political parties in fact.
“I am sure we all remember the Labour Party used to think it is the job of everyone in Scotland to go out every four years and just vote Labour and then not really do very much in between.”
The Conservative Party chairman also faced questions about vetting for new candidates, in the aftermath of the Wakefield by-election.
Nadeem Ahmed, the party’s candidate for the poll in June, was criticised for comparing trust in the Tories to faith in GPs despite the crimes of mass murderer Harold Shipman.
Labour won the seat, with Simon Lightwood succeeding disgraced former Tory MP Imran Ahmad Khan.
Mr Berry told Conservative members: “I want to reassure you that I have been able to reassure myself that extra vetting and procedures are already in place.
“We won’t get everything right, mistakes will still be made, but certainly, from things that have gone on in the past, lessons have been learned, and we have in an urgent way actioned it.”
Woking Borough Councillor Melanie Whitehand also spoke at the event, telling Mr Berry: “I am sick and tired, when we go around canvassing, every time what gets pulled up is what is happening in Government.
“Although we say local issues for local politics, it absolutely gets drowned out by whatever the MPs are doing in the chamber.”
She added that MPs are “selfish” and “not paying mind” to the Tory party members who helped get them elected.
Mr Berry replied that “every Member of Parliament should be canvassing regularly with their council team”, as he does.
He said: “I don’t have to rely on my council colleagues coming to me and saying ‘Do me a favour, will you? Just shut up in Westminster and will you let us get on with winning our local election’, because I hear it directly from the voters.”
He added: “If you have MPs who are refusing to go out on the doorsteps with you, tell me and I will speak to them, because it is a fundamental part of their job as a Conservative Member of Parliament to support our councillors, talk to voters and make sure we are serving the people we have the privilege of representing.”