Just over two weeks ago, as layers of national politics swirled around our local election campaign, I had to endure an election count that saw our Conservative group cut in half at the City Chambers. Bruising indeed.
It’s no consolation to conclude the loss of three valued, hard-working councillor colleagues was down to external influences. Nor is it any help to the candidates we put forward in other seats, mostly Conservative held, whose hard work campaigning failed to get them elected.
No matter our local focus, it’s hard to cut through when the TV news bulletins every night reconfirm the suggestion by others that the public could use the council election to “send a message” to those they dislike in national politics.
I believe we have been a strong and consistent opposition in the council over the last five years. We raised issues that concerned the public and put forward their views to change a council that wouldn’t listen to them.
We held those in power to account and scrutinised the council’s work with the aim of improving its performance. We did this in support of the quarter of people who voted for us in 2017 and many more beyond that with similar views.
But if a lack of trust in your party means a loss of votes and seats, it doesn’t matter that the source of discontent is down to external factors. The public has the right to their say and we must listen.
From talking to voters, I know there are many things we agree on. We must clean up our city, fix broken roads and pavements and get back to a council that gets the basics right.
That will be the start of our focus in this new council term. We must also do more as a party locally to ensure we have the answers for people on issues like educational achievement, the provision of social care and the cost of living.
We have a great start on these issues in our manifesto. We were the only party looking to save people money in these difficult financial times and we looked to balance environmental concern with a realism over people’s costs where they need a car or van for work.
To regain support, we must keep talking to the Edinburgh public and listen to them on how we further develop these ideas.
As I write this, the council has postponed its decisions on appointing a Lord Provost and an administration for a week. Even as a smaller group, we can have influence over these decisions. My aim is to ensure we use that influence to improve the council.
Our focus will be the key issues for Edinburgh people. We want to help the whole council to take account of people’s views and make decisions in a more open and accountable way. No one party has a majority so our votes will be used carefully to work with others who agree with the agenda our voters supported.
We still have a strong Conservative team in the City Chambers so we must roll up our sleeves and get to work to make our great city better.
Iain Whyte is Conservative councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston