Express & Star

Tory chairman praises hard-working local MPs and talks of united party

The chairman of the Conservative Party has spoken of the successes achieved in Staffordshire by the Government and how the party is ready for the General Election.

Richard Holden, right, said the Conservative Party was united ahead of the General Election

Richard Holden also said that Staffordshire, and the West Midlands as a whole, was a key area for the Conservatives for the election and said there was a feeling of buoyancy in the party at the moment, saying that there was a clear plan for the future.

Mr Holden was speaking as part of a tour of the region, meeting some of the MPs from Staffordshire, including Cannock Chase MP Amanda Milling, and seeing the work going on in the region.

His trip to Cannock involved a meeting with Ms Milling, as well as Conservative councillors at Cannock Chase Council ahead of the local elections, plus a tour of the town centre to look at the work being done to renovate and update it following funding from the Levelling Up fund.

Mr Holden said that funding had been one of the big successes in the region under a Conservative government and spoke about a number of other achievements made by the Government since coming to power in 2010.

He said: "One of the biggest ones overall has been the big uplift in schools, and that's across the board and shows the real improvements when it comes to education and, locally, that's been a huge improvement.

"Nationwide, we've seen the number of kids attending good or outstanding schools increase from under two thirds to almost 90 per cent which is, I think, a massive move in the right direction, and Cannock's really benefitted from the school rebuilding programme.

"The other things I wanted to mention are the big police uplift across Staffordshire, with more than 300 officers fully trained by the end of 2023, and in terms of Cannock Chase, there have been two big projects, which is the £2.8 million for the major road network programme and £20 million for Cannock town centre regeneration."

Mr Holden said he would be back up in Cannock and the region on a more regular basis in the lead-up to the local elections and the General Election, saying that the area was such an important part of the country for the party.

He said: "There are many of the seats which were gained for the first time by the Conservatives in the last few elections and they are hard working MPs, so I'm really keen to get out there and support them.

"These MPs are pounding the streets for their communities on the ground and in Westminsters and you will not find harder working MPs really banging the drum for their communities, so I'm just keen to get out there and support them as much as I can.

"Staffordshire and the West Midlands as a whole are key areas, which you can see through the mayoral election with Andy Street, and one of my first trips as chairman, I visited Wednesbury and Tipton, where we will be going back again and will absolutely take the fight to Labour on the ground there."

Mr Holden said the local elections picture was looking brighter for the party, with gains in different councils from previous years, and downplayed the predictions of a big loss in the General Election, saying that the mood was good in the party and speaking of what people on the street had been saying to him.

He said: "I think there's a feeling of buoyancy now as I think we've got a very clear plan for the future with the priorities we're pushing and have pushed over the last decade.

"When we look at the opposition at the moment, I was out on the doorsteps and there was absolutely no warmth towards the leader of the opposition as people kept bringing up his U-turns on all those policy areas and they have no idea what Labour stand for.

"They have a leader who they don't understand what he stands for versus hard-working good Conservatives on the ground, with Rishi Sunak leading the country and big issues such as inflation starting to fall.

"That's what we're talking about with people, inflation, the cost of living and the war in Ukraine and how energy prices went up, and when it's comes down to it, a lot of people are undecided on voting, but they're not saying to me that they like Sir Keir Starmer."

Mr Holden spoke of the Conservatives record in Government, saying that one million fewer people were unemployed compared to Labour's record in Government, as well as more children attending outstanding schools and higher wages for people earning minimum wage.

He also said that while there were reports of split factions within the party, the party was united and working to tackles the topics that mattered.

"For all the big issues of the day, when it comes to dealing with immigration, ensuring that there was enough support for families during the pandemic and delivering tax cuts for working people, the Conservative Party is united on those issues," he said.

"I think it is very clear as we focus on a General Election that you're going to have a Conservative Party united on a clear policy platform and no policy platform from Labour because they cannot agree on what to say.

"I believe that's what's going to be very clear to people as we move through this year towards the election."