Dulwich Village’s Conservative candidates have attributed their failure to regain the ward in the 2022 local elections to “national issues”, but say their campaign had Labour “worried”, and that they will keep providing effective opposition.
In 2018, Dulwich Village, traditionally a Tory stronghold, turned Labour red in a closely fought battle. So, in 2022, it was a key target for Southwark Conservatives.
Conservative candidates Clive Rates and Tristan Honeyborne hoped to regain the ward by harnessing the anger felt towards the Labour council’s imposition of low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs).
Speaking to the News weeks before the election, Honeyborne said: “People have seen what it’s like having councillors that don’t listen and ignore you for four years.
“We’ve been told by life-long Labour voters that because of the way they’ve been treated by Southwark Labour, they will be voting for us.”
But on the night, Labour held strong, with councillors Margaret Newens and Richard Leeming securing 43 per cent of the vote share compared to the Conservatives’ 24 per cent.
Clive Rates says the result is not an endorsement of Labour’s LTN policy. He said: “We see no evidence, from the election, of support for the LTN.
“Lots of people were furious about them, but there was a bigger chunk who didn’t like them, but ultimately were more driven by national issues.”
Despite citing “national issues”, they wouldn’t be drawn on what those issues were. Mr Honeyborne said: “It was a difficult national situation and a difficult night for the Conservatives.”
Dulwich Village Conservatives garnered 2,116 votes this year, 471 less than in 2018, but Honeyborne says their campaign went well: “The Conservative party has been invigorated by the campaign we’ve done and we’ve got strong foundations.”
Rates said: “Given the nature of the election with three strong oppositions, and a backwash against the Tories nationally, I think we did perfectly well to hold our own.”
Honeyborne said that Labour were so “worried” about the prospect of losing the ward, they parachuted in a crack-team of “professional politicians” to claw back votes at the eleventh hour.
The Tory duo intend to continue offering effective opposition to Labour, through a community-led approach. Rates said: “We see ourselves as community activists first and politicians second. We still have a responsibility for the people who voted for us.”