We are joined by Robert Ward, a Conservative Party Councillor for the Selsdon and Addington Village ward in Croydon, as we discuss the fall of Nicola Sturgeon, the expansion of ULEZ to Outer London and the 15% Council Tax rise for Croydon residents.
Did Brexit get done? Time will tell, first impressions suggest it’s not perfect but could be called done.
How do you hope the U.K. will use the new found freedoms? To shrink government interference and regulation in individual lives, leading to economic prosperity and greater individual freedom. I hope we will find a way to make CANZUK happen, or something like it, without giving up sovereignty.
What constitutional reform would you like to see happen next? A written constitution and bill of rights which reduces the power of the state, protects individual rights, reduces the tendency of democracy to become mob rule, and makes government more local and accountable.
What do you think is next for the EU? Continued slide to greater technocracy, more regulation, further loss of voice and liberty for individual citizens, expansionist outlook seeking to control more territory.
Did Brexit get done? Yes at the end of the day we have taken back control of our laws, borders and money, though it is a worry that for some reason the UK/EU Trade Deal did not include 80% of our trade with the EU – financial services. One can only hope there is a good reason for this – but it is vital and a big concern. We inevitably had to make some concessions but even with the fish we will have virtual total control in five and a half years. As our economy booms, politically and practically I believe , the EU will not be able to hold us back by increasing tariffs. Even “ Rejoiners” will become “ Rejoicers” as they see the real value of UK sovereignty, freedom to do our own trade deals and controlling our population numbers to better plan future infrastructure – hospitals, school, transport etc and keep us safe from terrorist attacks.
How do you hope the U.K. will use the new found freedoms? It is not a perfect deal but with the return of sovereignty and democracy we are now in a position to make our own trade deals and boom as an independent entrepreneurial trading nation, outside of the declining undemocratic EU. Already we have made over 60 worldwide trade deals and we have carried out more vaccine injections that the whole of the EU put together. The EU will continue to decline and despite safeguards on tariffs that they have built in, they won’t be able to prevent the UK from booming. This will set an example to other EU sceptic member countries and they will be looking for the exit door too. Especially with the Franco/German push even further towards an EU super state that further diminishes local democracy and accountability.
What constitutional reform would you like to see happen next? Most urgent is Westminster and the role of the Speaker – so clearly not fit for purpose and so abused by Remainer Bercow during the Brexit process. Plus MPs must deliver on the Manifestos on which they were elected – not just choose their own personal approach, and ignoring the wishes of the majority of their constituents when they get to the House. Next important is reforming. reducing , possibly abolishing, the ridiculously huge , undemocratic House of Lords. Finally, new rules on the Honours system to stop cronyism and abuse. You don’t get an honour for just doing your job – e.g. an Ambassador.
What do you think is next for the EU? Very interesting and difficult to predict with Merkel and Macron not likely to be around by the end of the year. With the UK gone the Franco/German axis will try to dominate EU policy. If the UK does well and horrendous EU youth unemployment continues then some of the newer Eastern European members may look for an out or major reform.
Did Brexit get done? Yes, Brexit got done, and better than I had expected. Removing the ECJ from the equation was vital. What is now important is to move on and make the most of it. We have already wasted far too much time bickering.
How do you hope the U.K. will use the new found freedoms? I would start with replacing the Common Agricultural Policy by supporting our farmers to use the land in a more environmentally friendly and productive way. This was the most controversial policy when we joined and one which for me, who voted to stay in in 1975, found the most egregious. Reform was promised because it was so disadvantageous to the UK but it came very slowly indeed because it had been designed as a mechanism to subsidise French farmers. That failure was one of the things that changed my mind about the EU.
What constitutional reform would you like to see happen next? A big problem is local government. That’s something that seems to work better in some other countries. Local people understand better than here which politician is responsible for delivering what and vote accordingly. In the UK the vast majority do not and as a consequence vote on national issues. That is in my opinion a major contributor to the mess that Labour has got us into in Croydon. No matter how incompetent Croydon Labour were and how we as an opposition pointed it out, Tony Newman just blamed central government. Too many voters believed him.
What do you think is next for the EU? I hope they do well but the signs are not good. They are refusing to learn the lessons of Brexit. Their solution to failure is always more EU. Criticism of that line is also very muted. The BBC isn’t the only national broadcaster that follows the EU-can-do-no-wrong line.
Did Brexit get done? Yes, sort of. I think time had come to be pragmatic and move on. Despite the Labour party grudgingly voting for the deal, they are clearly positioning themselves to “improve” the deal which in their terms means weaken it and a Labour government would end in BRINO. The government need to prove the benefits before the 2024 election as we may find much of the good work undone. Leavers should learn the lesson of 2016 in that rather than celebrating the referendum result and taking our foot of the gas we needed to close it out. This isn’t the end of the matter.
How do you think the UK will use its new found freedom? This is an area where the current government and I part ways. They are classic neo liberals and will look to turn us into a global buyer of cheap goods whereas the strategy I favour is to rebuild our industries and positively favour UK produced goods and services, we need to put the needs of our own people first.
What constitutional reform would you like to see happen next? As a Social Democrat this is a big issue for us. The Brexit debacle proved that MPs, in this case remain leaning MPs, were not to be trusted and voted against the wishes of their voters, that cannot happen again. We would introduce proportional representation and abolish the House of Lords whilst we were at it. A personal beef of mine is that if MPs choose to swap parties mid-term then they should be asked to stand at a by-election. Whilst all of the switchers were punished in the 2019 election we had to put up with them for the previous 3 years.
What do you think is next for the EU? Tough to say, I don’t see anything happening quickly but the lack of British money and our steadying influence the differences between North, South and Eastern Europe will become more apparent. I really feel for those countries in the Euro as they are well and truly stuffed, our escape was made easier by not having to worry about currency. Watch youth unemployment in Southern Europe, that can no longer be exported to the UK.
Robert Ward Councillor for Selsdon and Addington Village, was first returned in local Croydon elections in 2018. He is a former engineer, decision analyst, and project manager. Robert wrote extensively for the now defunct Croydon Citizen, and is now writing for Conservative Home.
Robert thanks for your time.
Tell us a bit about your background.
My father was an electrician and my mother a school secretary. I’m the first in my family to go to university, or even be educated beyond the age of fifteen, thanks to the Butler Education Act of 1944, an expression by the way of One Nation Conservatism that transformed the education of the working class.
father was a life-long blue-collar Conservative but like many young people, I
was more left wing. I went to every political group at university except the
Conservatives. I wasn’t committed to any ideology; I was just curious. I got to
listen to Harold Wilson, Roy Jenkins and the less well-known Paul Foot of the
International Socialists, the forerunner of the Socialist Workers Party.
started work as a railway signal engineer but job prospects in the UK were poor
at the time so I took a job working for a French company in the Middle East. I
later joined Shell and an American oil company living and working in many
countries, coming back to the UK when my children got older. It was only after
I was made redundant that I took a serious look at politics.
We first came to know you as a writer for the Croydon Citizen. How did you get involved, and please tell us a bit about writing for it?
was frustrated that so much of what I saw in the media was left-wing biased.
There was no balance. Conservatives care as much as any, perhaps more, about
equality of opportunity, helping the disadvantaged and generally making the
world a better place. Yet the material online was all written from a left-wing
point of view, advocating left-wing solutions, many of which have failed over
and over again but still were being put forward for yet another try, doomed to
failure. Working people pay the price.
wanted to redress that balance and also present reasoned arguments on policies
about which I had no preconceived idea and had not made up my mind. Some of my
articles were less good than others, partly because I tried to produce something
on a regular basis, but I’m very glad I did it. The Croydon Citizen, and Tom
Black in particular, were very helpful.
We certainly feel Croydon misses the Citizen. What do you think is the future for local journalism here in Croydon?
agree. This is a tough question. Journalism costs money and people don’t want
to pay, and there is only so much advertising revenue. The Croydon Citizen gave
it as good a try as it was possible to do and it didn’t work. People think more
globally and seem to follow celebrities in large numbers via social media.
Political discussion is a minority pursuit especially given the continuing left-wing
media bias even though the majority of the population does not share that view.
I am not optimistic.
You also set up the Croydon Debate Club. How did that come about?
the Croydon Citizen was a great way to present a different message, I thought
that constructive face to face discussion could be stimulating and rewarding
and that was equally missing. I therefore set up the Debate Club. I tried
different venues and formats. The audience varied from maybe ten people to more
than fifty. A celebrity speaker at a central Croydon location on a mid-week
evening was the most successful. Getting a good speaker and finding an
interesting subject was the challenge.
You had a famous meeting where Gavin Barwell spoke, and there were disturbances outside. Do you have any memories from that event?
That was an interesting evening. I remember you came along and were a great help, for which thank you again (Editor’s Note: Mike Swadling of this parish was accosted by and argued with a couple of thugs who tried to shutdown the meeting). Gavin was obviously a big draw, but up until that point the Debate Club had not attracted any extremists. I used Eventbrite to control attendance and I immediately saw with this meeting that there were some different names and a suspicious pattern of booking. I did a bit of internet research and found that both the far left and the far right had booked tickets, and not just one or two.
decided to withdraw their tickets and did so with what I thought was a
reasonably polite email. Both responded with abuse. I asked the local police to
patrol the area on the day. Some protestors showed up. I think they were
anarchists. Gavin and the audience all took it in their stride, although I
didn’t get to participate as well as I would have liked because I was concerned
about getting Gavin safely in and out of the meeting. Good fun in hindsight,
but rather stressful on the day.
You are now a councillor for Selsdon and Addington Village. What are the major challenges or opportunities for your ward?
very fortunate to have been elected to represent Selsdon and Addington Village.
It is a strong community with great assets. The green spaces and the High
Street are the most obvious. The opportunity is to strengthen what is already
there and build connections between groups to enable coherent action. Croydon
Council wants every area of Croydon to have a Community Plan and I think that
is exactly right. I have been pushing this forward as fast as I can. It will be
the basis of what we do going forward. My vision is to see more local people
working in local jobs and shopping in their local High Street. The long-term
disruption of central Croydon, whether Westfield does or does not happen, is an
opportunity for Selsdon.
You live tweet from Council meetings and sometimes seem less than impressed. How do you find the chamber?
was never very impressed with Council meetings as an outsider. My opinion
hasn’t changed, and now I have to sit through it all. Councillors are not happy
either so there has been a recent review of governance. This won’t be a
game-changer but it will I think be an improvement.
Has anything surprised you since becoming a councillor?
it softly but my biggest surprise was that a good number of the Labour
Councillors are decent intelligent people who want similar things to me, albeit
via a different route. The committee that I chair is genuinely cross-party. We
all want the best for Croydon’s children and are determined to do all we can to
change is the big issue of our time. I have been relatively quiet about it
because I don’t like to express an opinion on a complex subject till I have
acquired a decent level of knowledge. I’ve been working on that on and off for close
to a year and I am now confident enough to express an opinion. I expect to
write again on the subject, along with others.
UK government has taken a leading role internationally, something for which it
does not get enough credit. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, the issue has
been hijacked by the usual far left suspects as a trojan horse for their
anti-capitalist ambitions. Locally I am supportive of real action by the
Council to make a measurable difference, but the Labour Council has set up a
group that is unrepresentative of public opinion. I am concerned that it will
just be used by Labour and others to give some pseudo-legitimacy for their
usual complaining about the government whilst they themselves do little or
nothing to make a difference on the Council’s carbon emissions.
Writing at a time of Coronavirus it’s difficult to see ahead but what would you like to see from the new Government over the next few years?
We need to get through the pandemic and come out the other
side positively. Right now we have an invisible enemy to fight. Economy and
other matters are rightly taking a back seat. But we are building up an even
bigger debt mountain than we had already. Who knows where the economy might go?
The government needs to lead us in bouncing back. I think Boris is the man to
do that. He has done a great job so far and I think that will continue.
Brexit must be delivered. I thought that on balance Brexit
was the right choice but was not dogmatic. I thought we would be fine whether
we stayed in or left, although I had been concerned on the direction the EU was
taking for some years. Once the decision was taken then it had to be delivered.
I was disappointed that some MPs did all they could to prevent it. I think we
will see the upside quite soon if the government takes advantage of the opportunity.
I would particularly like the tide to be turned on the erosion of free speech. No platforming, especially at universities, is very concerning. As we have already talked about, I believe constructive and robust dialogue leads to improved understanding and better solutions. Suppressing free speech hurts us all.