What next for district Tories after devastating election defeat?

Mary Maynard lost her seat in the local council elections.

Mary Maynard lost her seat in the local council elections. - Credit: SADC

Before last week's council elections, the St Albans district Conservative Party boasted 23 councillors - now they have just four.

Thursday's vote cost them their leader, Mary Maynard, one of her predecessors Julian Daly, and a host of other veteran councillors.

Now barely able to offer any sort of substantial opposition, the party faces the prospect of watching the all-controlling Liberal Democrat administration having carte blanche to introduce its political agenda unopposed.

New leader of the Conservative opposition group Cllr Brian Ellis responded to the change in status quo: "From a governance perspective the situation looks unhealthy. The normal controls will not work, for example on the audit committee the Liberal Democrats will be marking their own homework.

"The administration can do what they like, unchecked. Nevertheless we intend to provide an intelligent opposition. Whist there are only four of us, several of our former councillors with deep knowledge of the council's operations will remain engaged and will support us. This will be useful as most of the senior staff have left the council."

His predecessor Mary Maynard had her own thoughts on why things went so terribly wrong.

"Clearly, the election results were deeply disappointing to all Conservative candidates. They stood to make a difference and help their communities. Some had been councillors for decades, were totally dedicated to helping people in their wards and had made significant contributions to the district. The district has lost a massive amount of experience and expertise with their departure.

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"The results were not a surprise though. Conservatives talked to thousands of local people in the months running up to the election and these doorstep conversations told us two things.

"The first was that people liked the local Conservative agenda and appreciated what we had achieved locally.

"The second was that irrespective of this, they were unhappy about what was happening nationally, wanted to send a ‘message’ to the Conservative government and intended to vote against us to do so.

"Even lifelong Conservative voters told us this. They did not ‘lend’ their vote to anyone. They do not really support other parties. They voted to send a warning to government. Most of these people told us that they would come back to us if we listened. We know that this happened in many areas of the south east.

"Looking forward, it is clear the government is listening and is changing policy as a result.  For example, they have just announced that in districts like ours with a high proportion of Green Belt, councils can make a case not to build in their Local Plans and do not have to meet their housing targets. 

"The consequence of the election locally is that we are now living in a one party state, with an administration that has shown time and time again over the last three years that it does not tolerate opposition or dissent and will ruthlessly try to stamp it out.

"They cannot evade responsibility or accountability for their actions now.

"However, there are only four Conservative Opposition councillors ranged against 50 from one party. These councillors, ably led by Cllr Brian Ellis will scrutinise what is happening, make sure that people are kept informed and that their voices are heard.  Local Conservatives will continue to listen and to campaign on behalf of local people.’