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Dragon Interview: Bob Hughes, Chairman of the Guildford Conservative Association

Bob Hughes

Surprisingly perhaps, in an area considered part of the Tory heartland, only 48% of voters supported Conservative candidates at the last Guildford Borough Council election, which coincided with the general election in 2015. But the party has retained its dominance at Millmead where 34 of the 48 members are Conservative.

Bob Hughes is the chairman of the Guildford Conservative Association which handles the selection of candidates, an exercise currently underway for the local election in 2019. It’s an influential role and not without controversy (see: Senior Tories Successfully Appeal Against Deselection – Now They Must Apply Again).

Martin Giles of The Guildford Dragon NEWS caught up with the former government minister to pose a few questions…

How strong is the Conservative Party’s hold on the borough council after the adoption of the Local Plan which has been submitted for examination?

The Local Plan is a protection against uncontrolled development and Guildford Council deserves great credit for achieving a local plan.

Barring a political earthquake, the majority of those eventually selected to stand as Conservative candidates for the 2019 borough council election will be elected, shouldn’t the party candidate selection process be open?

We never take voters for granted. We will work to persuade every voter that the Conservatives are the best people to run Guildford council. Our candidate selection process is open for all our members to participate in.

You stood unsuccessfully as a candidate in the last county council election for the Guildford South-West division. Do you intend to stand in the borough council election in 2019? If so, in which ward would you like to stand?

I will be submitting my name to party members in appropriate wards.

Are you now living in Guildford Borough, as required if you are going to stand here?

I have lived and voted in the Guildford Borough for the last four years and will continue to do so.

Shouldn’t the Guildford Conservative Association be less secretive in general and publish, for instance, who are its officers and how many members there are?

Anyone who shares our values is welcome to join Guildford Conservatives. Membership numbers are scrutinised by the officers who are elected by our membership.

We meet, in full, the prescriptive obligations for transparency placed on us by the Electoral Commission. The names of our officers will be of little interest but we will put them on our website following our Annual General Meeting.

Are you expecting a backlash from voters who are unhappy with proposals in the Local Plan to build on the green belt and build higher rise in the town?

We will argue our case that the Local Plan protects Guildford. We will also expose the rather simplistic arguments of our opponents which are not as attractive as they may at first seem.

Unhappiness with the result of the Solum appeal decision seems almost universal in the town but the decision has been arrived at under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) introduced by the Conservatives. Surely your party is partly responsible?

The suggestion is ludicrous. Ever since there have been planning laws there has been an appeal system and planning inspectors. This one has got his decision wrong and it is being fought by the council.

Isn’t it the case that the proposed development in the Local Plan will make the borough, as a whole, far more suburban in character and put an unsustainable strain on our infrastructure and services?

The suggestion that the Local Plan constitutes a “far more suburban” character for the borough isn’t true. Infrastructure improvements are essential to improving our town. Anne Milton MP, working with Guildford council, has done very well in attracting government money for improvements to our infrastructure

You campaigned to remain in the EU. Are you content with your party’s Brexit policy? What will be the consequences, in your view, of Brexit on Guildford Borough?

There are many views in Guildford about Brexit. However, the overwhelming view on the doorsteps is that we can’t re-run the referendum and that we should just get on with it and negotiate the best deal possible.

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5 Responses to Dragon Interview: Bob Hughes, Chairman of the Guildford Conservative Association

  1. Peter Shaw Reply

    March 5, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    He is not exactly one for details. Pretty broad, lacking substance, non-specific answers. I wonder if Mr Hughes has watched “Yes Minister” or “Yes, Prime Minister” recently?

    If he wants to win votes he will have to do better than this!

  2. Bernard Parke Reply

    March 5, 2018 at 3:09 pm

    It is good to hear Bob Hughes’ comment regarding the Solum appeal and that it is being fought.

    But is the Conservative Association at variance with the GBC Conservative group? Did we not read that the leader of the council state that a there is not to be a judicial review?

  3. John Perkins Reply

    March 5, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    If the Local Plan is a protection against uncontrolled development it is still a plan almost as bad.

    The time to argue the case for the Local Plan has long since past, as has any excuse to sneer at the arguments of its opponents.

    The inspector’s decision on the Solum development is not being fought. In effect, it cannot be fought.

    Filling in gaps in the green belt (and later in the villages which have been “inset”) will make the borough more suburban. Spending taxpayers money on the infrastructure needed to cope with the new developments will not change that.

  4. George Potter Reply

    March 7, 2018 at 11:49 am

    It’s worth noting, for those who are unaware, that Robert (Bob) Hughes was a Conservative MP from 1987-1997 and was a government minister at one point.

    Perhaps that explains the, “Pretty broad, non-specific answers” that Peter Shaw refers to in his comment.

  5. Colin Cross Reply

    March 9, 2018 at 7:28 pm

    Dictionary definition of simplistic: “To make complex matters simpler than they really are.” Hence Bob Hughes is shooting himself in both feet by accusing Local Plan critics of being simplistic. Exactly the opposite is the truth.

    Solving the housing numbers problem by proposing that over 50% of the new building must be on three rural mega sites (all green belt) and not in carefully planned suburban extensions is the epitome of a simplistic approach as there is simply no infrastructure remotely available to let this be a realistic plan.

    The meerkats have a word for it: “Simples”!

    Colin Cross is the Lib Dem borough councillor for Lovelace.

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