In the media this week:

Our research report Taking the Temperature continues to receive media coverage:

  • The research was covered on Peston last week by ITV’s Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana
  • Senior Researcher Alex Luke spoke with Paul Cardwell on TalkTV, Matt Chorley on Times Radio, and wrote for Business Green, about popular support for net zero and outlining other findings from our research report
  • The report was also cited on an article in The Independent, on the need for action to battle the cost of living crisis

Ahead of this week’s local elections, Head of Future Politics Jim Blagden wrote for Conservative Home on the key battlegrounds to watch out for.

Deputy Director Adam Hawksbee outlined our new research programme Levelling Up In Practice for The MJ. The programme will work with political leaders, community groups and businesses to identify practical steps that they can take to level up their own areas.

Adam also appeared on BBC Radio 4’s World at One on Wednesday to discuss the cost of living crisis and offered some practical policy ideas for relieving its effects on people.

Today, Director Will Tanner will be speaking at the Local Trust Conference ‘Levelling up communities: What’s the evidence?’ alongside other speakers as listed in a recent London Influence. For more information about the event and how to sign up, head here.

Upcoming event
Restitch 3x4 1 - Onward Newsletter, 04/05/2022

Onward and Create Streets are delighted to officially invite you to register your attendance at Restitch: The Social Fabric Summit. Over the week, we will bring together the most interesting thinkers and most inspiring practitioners to celebrate community, discuss the challenges facing our societies, and share practical steps to revive left-behind places and restore our fraying social fabric after the pandemic.

By following the registration link, you will be able to join us in person, either in Church House, London on Tuesday 24th May or at The Piece Hall, Halifax on Friday 27th May. In addition to registering, you can choose which break out session you want to join on each day of the summit.

Onward Note

Local elections can give us a sense of what voters in key battlegrounds are feeling. What should we look out for this week?

James-Blagden-Onward

The Conservatives gained control of Walsall and Dudley councils in 2021 and Onward’s recent paper showed they have shifted towards the Conservatives. In 2018, the Conservatives won 14 Dudley wards to Labour’s 10. And in Walsall, the Conservatives won 30 to Labour’s 26. These will be hotly contested and, for the Conservatives, are more defensive elections than elsewhere. To lose control of these councils would be a symbolic setback for the Conservatives’ prospects in the Black Country.

In Lincolnshire, the wards in the Great Grimsby constituency are turning towards the Conservatives. This shift, for a town that hadn’t returned a Tory MP since 1935, is so pronounced that Labour failed to win any wards in the 2021 local elections; Conservatives won six out of eight.

Further north, last year the Conservatives won a parliamentary by-election in Hartlepool and became the largest party on the council. But, following Partygate, the local elections will be a key test of how well Conservative support holds up there.

But on the south coast, we have Worthing, a traditionally Tory town that is drifting away from the party. Over the last few years, Labour has gained ground in the town. They had no seats at all before 2018, but are now tied with the Conservatives at 17 seats each. This time, the Conservatives are defending eight seats. Labour are defending four, so they only need to win two seats in order to take majority control of the council for the first time.

Another Conservative area to watch is Altrincham in Trafford. Trafford Council is solidly Labour, but the Altrincham and Sale West constituency has always been Conservative. Locally the Tories have been losing ground to the Greens. There are now three Green councillors in the historically ‘blue’ ward of Altrincham. This Conservative-to-Green swing is not widespread but is something to watch.

Local elections are not General Elections. Turnout is typically lower and national policy often takes a back seat. However, political realignment has been nudging some areas towards the Tories and we will look to the ward results for an indication of whether the party is making further inroads into the Red Wall. And towns like Worthing and Altrincham could be a sign of what we call a ‘blue drift’. These places used to be bastions of Conservatism, but are now drifting towards the left. Watching key battlegrounds can give us some indication of how Conservative target voters are feeling.

A longer version of this note appeared on Conservative Home on 2nd May.

James Blagden, Head of Future Politics at Onward

We are hiring!

We are looking for an experienced and driven individual to join our leadership team as Chief Operating Officer. This is a senior hire, reporting directly to the Director and the Trustees. The role is responsible for executing Onward’s long-term financial strategy, managing high-level fundraising and corporate partnerships, and overseeing events, Onward’s Business Club and the Party Conference programme. 

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Policy Bites

Ofsted has announced its latest 5 year strategy, aimed at tackling the strains placed by the pandemic on the education system, with a greater focus on early years education. It makes commitments to accelerate and improve inspection and expand its evidence base. Link

As a part of its manifesto commitment to make the civil service the leading provider of apprenticeships in the country, the Government has announced that 1 in 20 civil servants will be an apprentice by 2025. Link

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has announced it is extending support for high energy usage businesses by offsetting their electricity bill costs for a further three years. This is expected to aid the transition towards greater electrification and reduce emissions. Link

Quick Links
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Britain’s sclerotic state | The Spectator
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