Andy Street and the Conservative Message│ Angus Gillan
“People want to believe in something positive” – Andy Street
From the example of the Mayor of the West Midlands we can learn how to market Conservative policies and candidates in order to secure a country that is Fit for the Future.
Nearly a year after Andy Street’s election, the Mayor visited the University of Birmingham for an event run by the Conservative Society to reflect on the energy of his Mayoral campaign, which saw around 150 MPs, numerous campaigners (including students from the University of Birmingham and others from across the nation) flock to the region to spread the message that Andy would champion the West Midlands.
The key message that stood out through the Q&A was one that the Conservative party is once again realising it is time to embrace, that “people want to believe in something positive”. This follows on from the Prime Minister’s Easter message of the triumph of hope and the coming of Spring. This is in many ways the heart of conservatism, and this is the driving force of conservatism in Birmingham; most evident at the 24th March Birmingham Council election campaign launch with Cllr Robert Alden, Andy, and James Morris MP.
The plan is to be “unremittingly positive”. On paper this sounds fine, but how do we enact positivity?
The crucial line is how we market our sound economic action. If we look at Andy’s ‘integrated approach’, of Skills, Transport, and Housing we see the advertising not only of practical policy, but also an ideological motivation to our actions, that of empowering people, which is likely to gain great support.
The talk provided vital information about Andy’s work thus far: securing the Commonwealth Games for Birmingham; Coventry hosting the City of Culture in 2021; and a £5 billion investment bid for transport providing metro line extensions and creation of a new rail franchise. This is staggeringly important as areas such as Dudley have not seen quality transport in 50 years. However, it also follows our narrative as Conservatives, that of providing opportunity for individuals to succeed; practically speaking the transport initiative will support the rejuvenation of town highstreets, that will flourish in the build up to, during, and following the Commonwealth Games and City of Culture events, simultaneously combatting the malaise that has afflicted areas of the region for years.
While we as a party continue to promote statistics highlighting our success, what we cannot neglect is the importance of conversation. Yes, the impressive accolades of Andy Street are celebrated by the party nationally and are a point of local pride; I myself while out campaigning met swing voters who stated they would support the Conservatives due to the work of the West Midlands Mayor. Yet to get beyond simply convincing people we are the sensible party, we must inspire them. The facts and figures really hit home for the young audience when the big picture was laid out. What do we believe in? Students, first-time buyers, those starting a family – in short those we call ‘young’ – are decrying the lack of optimism, hope, and ambition coming from our party. By meeting with people in person, actively conveying our ideology, beyond just listing success, we are more likely to capture the imagination of potential voters, more likely to inspire the generation which everyone in Westminster is now an expert on. Four individuals spring to mind instantly regarding engaging in practical and ideological discussion with young audiences: Andy Street; James Cleverly; Sam Gyimah; and Jacob Rees-Mogg (although of course there a number of other MPs also taking this approach).
This brings me now full circle, as this point of policy marketing is what we must understand to fully comprehend Andy Street’s victory, and how we can go forward to defeat the sensationalism of the far left. The electorate in the West Midlands have long felt ‘left out’ of national successes, and Andy stood on a platform of championing his electorate, giving them hope, engaging with their reality and boldly committing to work for them.
This is what we must do, advertise our beliefs and inspire a nation.