FROM THE FANTASTIC 50FOR15 BLOG Link to blog
Link to Warwickshire North candidates
people have an extended period of time from deciding to run as a
candidate in a seat to their successful selection as the Prospective
Parliamentary Candidate. Not so for Craig Tracey, the Conservative
candidate for North Warwickshire. Shortly after the resignation of the current Conservative MP,
Dan Byles, Craig was chosen as the local party’s candidate. A
fortnight later he got married, and a week after his wedding he was in
Birmingham for the Conservative Party Conference, where, after this
“whirlwind” of events, it seemed only fair to meet him in a pub.
chatted about the importance of the Party Conference for candidates in
marginal seats, his reservations over HS2, and why he’ll be in the pub a
whole lot more over the next few months…
What’s different about Conference when you’re based in such a marginal constituency?
different in terms of it being the one opportunity where we get a lot
of activists together in the same place, where you get a lot of MPs
together, and you can go and talk to them and get them on board to help
your campaign. Politics is a people business, and if a MP connects with
you, then they are more likely to send people from the safer seats to
help you out. We have had quite a few offers of help which is fantastic.
We are a small association, just over a hundred members, so having
extra bodies on the ground is what is going to help us.
You were chairman of the North Warwickshire Conservative Association and now you’re the candidate. What’s the transition like?
chairman, you have to make quite difficult decisions and things that you
do are not universally popular. When you are the candidate you have to
bring everybody together and have them all working for you, so it’s
quite an interesting transformation. It’s been fun and people have been
very supportive, which is great. I’ll probably know more in a week or
two once there’s been more time to campaign! I have been really
impressed with all the support and the emails coming through.
Your Labour opponent, Mike O’Brien, was the former MP – how does that pose a challenge to your campaign?
He was my
MP! I think it actually helps us because he’s lost twice now, and he’s
coming up again. It seems like Labour cannot come up with a better
candidate for the seat. From my point of view, he’s somebody who has
twice been rejected by voters and he’s supposedly the best they can
campaigned against him so I know how he works and operates. He is known
in the area, but then there are things that he has done which aren’t
popular. When I have been out on the doorstep speaking to people it’s
evident that they haven’t forgotten the things that he has done. A more
dynamic candidate coming in would have been a much bigger threat.
What are the key issues to voters in North Warwickshire?
emotive one from the national level is High Speed Rail, HS2. It affects a
lot of the constituency. We also have the George Eliot Hospital which
turned from a bad news story into a good news story, and has been
performing so much better over the last 6 months. If you look at North
Warwickshire, it’s such a diverse constituency. There are lots of rural
areas, lots of market towns, lots of ex-mining areas, so there’s not
really encompassing issue for the whole area, except for planning, which
is a huge issue. The two borough councils that look after North
Warwickshire have failed to have a credible housing plan.
My first campaign
is on road safety which is something I am passionate about. My day job
is as an insurance broker so I see the other side of the effects that
things like speeding has so that was natural campaign for me but it is
also an issue that has been raised lots on the doorstep, especially in
What are your opinions on HS2?
cannot see the business case for it. I have campaigned with Dan Byles,
and have campaigned on this issue over the years. It’s a very difficult
project to justify.
So why do you think the leadership of the Conservative Party are supporting it?
believe that it is a project which will develop long term economic
benefits, of which the connectivity to the North is a key rationale. But
for the people of North Warwickshire it doesn’t offer value for money. I
would rather see the existing rail provision updated and made quicker.
We know that there is going to be a problem with rail in terms of
capacity, so there is going to have to be something done. The project
has got cross-party support which makes it unlikely that we’re going to
be able to stop it, but then it’s a case of getting the best mitigation
for the people who will be affected.
the things you don’t hear about is that when HS2 is going through an
area it affects house prices so we need to ensure that compensation
packages are delivered quickly and are fair. Dan has been incredibly
proactive as the voice against HS2 and I think he has gained a lot of
respect for that. If you go out to meetings and talk to people everybody
know how much he is doing and how much he has helped us.
So with six months to go, what are the key considerations of your campaign going to be?
new candidate is selected the most important thing is to get out and
knock on doors. Leaflets are great, but the more people you can talk to
the better. That is what I’ll be focusing on throughout the election but
certainly while the evenings are longer. The campaign will be about
getting out there and meeting as many people as possible and organising
going to do some ‘In the Pub with Craig’ meetings. I organised similar
meetings in the pub for Dan at the last election and they were really
good way to engage voters who may not have been engaged in politics
before. It’s a bit like learning – people learn in different ways and
you have got to encapsulate different styles of learning and get our
strong messages out because we have strong messages to tell.