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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Deputy PM Oliver Dowden: Conservatives “fighting hard” in London as election approaches

Rishi Sunak’s deputy has said the Tories are “fighting hard in every part of London”, while refusing to reveal which constituencies the party is targeting in the general election.

Asked on Friday where the Conservatives believe they have a realistic chance of gaining new seats in London, Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I’m not going to start speculating on the battleground.”

Mr Dowden was speaking on a campaign visit in Hendon, where Tory MP Matthew Offord is standing down. It is one of 21 seats the party won out of London’s 73 constituencies at the 2019 election.

“We’re not disclosing our battleground – that’s normal,” said Mr Dowden. “It’s the same for anywhere else in the country and I think you’ll probably find that the Labour party is also not disclosing where its battleground is.”

The Conservatives won Hendon by a majority of 4,230 in 2019, but according to all current polling projections, the seat will be lost to Labour on 4 July.

“We’ll be fighting hard in every part of London,” said Mr Dowden, adding: “What I would say, is that in seats like this, it’s genuinely been my experience that if you contrast what the polls are saying, versus my experience on the doorstep here, in my constituency [in Hertfordshire], and many other parts of London, there is not an enthusiasm for the Labour party.

“There are increasing questions [about Labour] and a recognition that the work that Rishi Sunak has done is starting to work.

“Of course we need to work hard over the next six weeks to convince people and turn things round, but I’m confident that we can do it.”

Asked about the recent London mayoral election, in which Labour’s Sadiq Khan won an historic third term by a record number of votes, Mr Dowden said: “I think it’s quite difficult to draw too many lessons from the mayoral election.

“Clearly those were in relation to issues specifically for London. This is about the future of the nation.

“I think, in the end, when people cast their vote – whether it’s in Hendon, Bromley, or central London – it’s a straightforward choice, who do you want to be your Prime Minister? Rishi Sunak or Keir Starmer?

“I see, working with Rishi Sunak every day as his deputy, somebody who has got a clear plan for the future of our country – whether it’s making work pay, reforming welfare, cutting people’s taxes.

“The economy is starting to move in the right direction, there’s still much further for us to go, but he has got a clear plan.”

He said that by contrast, Labour leader Sir Keir was trying to “avoid scrutiny” and get into Downing Street “without explaning what his plan is”.

Ameet Jogia, a Conservative councillor in neighbouring Harrow who – according to his LinkedIn profile – is also a political advisor to the Prime Minister, is hoping to take over from Mr Offord as Hendon’s MP.

Mr Jogia said local residents are concerned about Labour’s plan to charge private schools 20 per cent VAT, the prevalence of crime, and overdevelopment.

“Overdevelopment in terms of the scale of development in the area,” he said. “People understand and appreciate the need of having more homes, but it’s making sure that developments have the infrastructure in place as well.”

The general election will be held on Thursday, 4 July.

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