With just over a week to go until the local elections, candidates from all parties have been pounding the streets hoping to turn chats on the doorstep into crosses in the ballot box.
While the Conservatives are looking to win their first election in Kingston for 20 years, the ruling Liberal Democrats will be hoping the party’s waning popularity at national level is not reflected locally.
This year, the Tories are targeting key Lib Dem strongholds – including council leader Liz Green’s seat in St Mark’s ward in Surbiton, and Grove ward in Kingston town centre.
“What the Conservatives have been bad at in the past is really going for the town centre wards,” said Conservative election agent Ben Mallet.
“We have not been so good at attacking wards like Beverley, St Mark’s, Grove and Berrylands, wards with high streets or small shopping parades, so that in my mind needs to change.
“We want to show the Conservatives aren’t just going to retreat to the suburbs.
“We proved in the Beverley by-election [held last year to replace disgraced ex-council leader Derek Osbourne] that revitalising high streets, tackling anti-social behaviour, keeping high streets clean really resonates.
“St Mark’s and Grove are similar stories.
Terry Paton won last year's Beverely ward by-election for the Conservatives, and the party will be hoping for a repeat next week
“We’ve found on the door that a lot of people agree with our manifesto. “We’re not complacent, but we’re feeling very confident that our message is getting across.”
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Tory leader Howard Jones was also confident his party had got its campaign right.
He said: “We think we’ve got a really well organised campaign, and indications from the door steps are very positive.
“It’s always very close in Kingston but we believe we’ve got the right policies to take Kingston forward in a positive way.
“We believe Surbiton is a very Conservative area, and we believe we have the right policies for Surbiton.
“But we like to think we’ve got a chance in all of the wards. We’re campaigning hard in Surbiton, but also in Tolworth, south of the borough, Chessington and New Malden.
“We’re looking forward to the elections and indications are that we could do well.”
Conservative leader Howard Jones is confident his party can win control of Kingston
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats will not be trying to wrestle away safe Tory seats, but instead consolidate on the existing support which saw the party win the 2010 election despite polling fewer votes than the Tories.
Deputy PM Nick Clegg, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and business secretary Vince Cable have all visited Kingston to bolster the Lib Dem's campaign.
Lib Dem campaign manager Roisin Miller said: “We’re really proud of our record in Kingston. We’ve protected services, and kept libraries and leisure centres open.
“The floating voters like living in Kingston and we’re reminding them why they like living here.
“The fact we pushed for a new primary school in Surbiton, the fact there isn’t a school places crises in Kingston – I think people like the fact they can get a school place in the borough without having to travel outside.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on a visit to Lime Tree School in Surbiton earlier this month, with Kingston Council leader Liz Green and Lib Dem MEP for London Sarah Ludford
“If you look at the council make up there’s quite a few split wards, so for us picking up that other seat on the ticket is a priority, rather than going after new areas.
“We’ve got enough support in our existing wards to win, it’s just a case of making sure we get our message out.”
Council leader Liz Green said: "I think it will come down to a handful of wards which could be very tight, especially the split wards.
“In Berrylands we’ve got two councillors and the Tories have one, and right next door in Alexandra the Tories have two and we have one.
“All six of those seats could go Lib Dem or all six could go Conservative.
"It’s 50/50 at the moment where we have those splits, although it is not just going to go down to those two wards.”
Kingston leader Liz Green believes the election will be tight - but was dismissive of the Tories' attempts to unseat her
On the Tories targeting her ward, Coun Green said: “My ward St Mark’s has been Lib Dem for 12 years, and we have a reputation for helping residents and keeping in contact with them throughout the four year term.
“The Tories pitch up a few months before the elections and hand out a few leaflets, and I think residents who have been living in the area for a while will know we’ve kept in contact with them.”
Conservative manifesto pledges
- Build more schools through the Government’s Free School programme to create 14 new forms of entry
- Transform elderly care services and provide more support for abused and bullied children
- Tackle anti-social behaviour through stricter use of licensing laws and more police in town centres
- Invest an additional £1m to improve roads, pavements and high streets, as well as parks and green spaces
- Introduce free 30 minute parking across the borough to support small businesses and independent shops
Liberal Democrat manifesto pledges
- Build four new primary schools and a new secondary school
- Create better facilities for elderly people, including building a new dementia care home
- Deliver more than 2,000 affordable homes in the borough in the next 10 years
- Continue to protect heritage, biodiversity and Green Belt land
- Invest in roads, including delivering the £30m mini-Holland cycling scheme
- Push neighbourhood committees to introduce free parking periods in small shopping parades and expand 20mph zones in residential roads
- Continue to keep Council Tax down and deliver value for money
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