During the 2019 General Election the message that came from Island Conservatives was that the only choice for voters was Conservative versus Labour.
A year or so later this message has appeared again, this time in the 2021 Isle of Wight council elections.
Council election letter
The majority of Conservative election letters feature a box that reads:
THE CHOICE IN [name of IWC ward]: Conservative vs Labour
Although town / parish councils are non-political, the IoW Council elections are more like Westminster – with a choice between political parties, to provide a clear direction at County Hall.
Dismisses other candidates
The letters go on to state the number of candidates standing in that particular ward and claim that as the Conservatives have 39 candidates and Labour 28, they are the only parties who have enough candidates to form a majority on the Council.
In wards where a Labour candidate isn’t standing, for example Ryde Appley and Elmfield, the Conservative letter says the choice is Conservatives vs Green.
On one letter, seen by News OnTheWight, it states the independent candidate “would be sat on the side-lines as a lone voice, with little influence”.
This somewhat ignores the 2013 election where the Conservatives got a drubbing at the hands of the Island Independents, who swept to power, with the Conservatives having to make do with 15 seats.
What the other parties think of the claim
News OnTheWight contacted leaders for Island Independent Group of councillors, Our Island, Green Party, Vectis Party, Island Labour, Island Independent Network and Liberal Democrats to hear their views on the Cons vs Lab message.
In alphabetical order here are their responses.
Andre: Conservatives “out of touch with reality”
Debbie Andre, who is currently leader of Island Independent Group of councillors (formed within County Hall after the 2013 election), said,
“Having failed as an administration over the past four years, the Conservative claims that this election is between themselves and Labour, shows how out of touch with reality they really are.
“The real strength of a future administration lies with non-Tory candidates who will work together for the Island.”
Bacon: Conservative “claims are seriously misleading”
Jonathan Bacon from Our Island said,
“The Conservative claims are seriously misleading. In my view, the vast majority of Labour candidates are ‘paper’ candidates, but in every ward there is either an Independent, an Our Island candidate a Liberal or a Green who presents the main alternative to the Conservative, and who, in many cases, is likely to win.
“The Conservatives are giving a false picture to the electorate knowing that such candidates are ready and able to work together as a strong and cohesive new Administration.”
Lowthion: “Greens are main opposition to Conservatives”
Vix Lowthion of the IW Green Party told News OnTheWight,
“In 2017 the Isle of Wight Green Party came second in 14 Isle of Wight county council seats, beating both Labour and the Lib Dems in regards to the Vote share, showing that Greens are the main opposition to the Conservatives across the Island.
“On 6th May Islanders have to make a choice about who they want representing them and who is best placed to do that for their community. Our Green candidates in Newport, Ryde, East Cowes, Shanklin and all the rural villages from West Wight to the centre of the Island are in the strongest position to bring that change.”
Quigley: Not the case in local elections
Richard Quigley of Island Labour told News OnTheWight,
“It’s true in a General election, but not in the local elections. They are scared their disgruntled voters will vote Independent, Green or Lib Dem as a protest.
“We are fighting for every vote, but don’t have a candidate in every ward.
“The Conservatives only need to lose five seats to lose control of the council.”
Stephens: “A sad indictment of a failed local administration”
Ian Stephens of Island Independent Network, told News OnTheWight,
“The statement made within the election letters are a sad indictment of a failed local administration who are endeavouring to cling on to the control of the IWC by introducing national politics into local elections.
“The real message seems to be ‘Vote for a dose of Tory Amnesia’ as it was only a short time ago that I led successful independents and took over from a Tory administration, who had left the Island education system on the rocks. It was an independent administration that pulled things back on track and onto a positive path.
“The arrogance of the Conservative letter suggests that they still have not learned a lesson or two, which spells danger if they are returned to continue their operations behind closed doors and delegated decisions.
“I suggest reaching for the salt cellar might have more effect than believing the whispered wishful thinking of a desperate local conservative letter.”
Nick Stuart Chair of the Liberal Democrats stated,
“We read with disbelief the Conservatives story as the Council has one other party with seats – Lib Dems. No Green, no Labour.
“In Central Wight and Osborne and Whippingham stand alone by-elections we came second.
“Now we see similar odd claims from Green. Results on 6th May are what matter, not airy nonsense.”
8am 29th Apr 2021 – Comment from Nick Stuart added, reference to Island Independents amended to include Group of councillors