Meet Tom Pridham, the Conservative candidate

8 mins read
Tom Pridham campaigning in Peabody estate - Credit: Tom Pridham

Tom Pridham is the Conservative candidate in the Battersea constituency for the UK Parliamentary election on Thursday 4 July 2024.

To provide more information about the main candidates, we have partnered with the community website and invited them to answer our questions. We hope this will give you an opportunity to learn more about their concerns, proposals, and how they can assist Battersea residents.

Could you introduce yourself to our readers?

I have lived in the area for ten years now, first near Clapham Junction, then in Balham. 18 months ago, my partner and I bought our first property, a flat just off Lavender Hill. I’ve served on Wandsworth Council for two years, representing the ward where I live, Lavender. My main political interests are:

  • Housing, in particular making home ownership a more attainable ambition for people who are struggling to get on the housing ladder.
  • Crime – I’ve spoken to lots of people locally who feel less safe than they did a few years ago and one of my priorities as a councillor is working with the police to ensure that residents’ concerns are addressed.
  • High Streets – We have fantastic high streets in Battersea, in particular, of course Northcote Road. One of my main focuses as a councillor has been campaigning to reinstate the excellent, and popular, summer weekend pedestrianisation of Northcote Road which was sadly cancelled by the Labour administration in the Town Hall.
  • Foreign and Defence Policy – This may seem far removed from everyday concerns but the world has become a more dangerous place in the last few years and I believe it is important to take these threats seriously. I’m very proud of the UK’s support for our Ukrainian allies and also the large number of Ukrainian refugees that have been taken in by residents in Battersea, and Wandsworth more broadly.

Tell us something about you our readers may not know

My parents are both lifelong Labour supporters! I was brought up in a household where I was encouraged to discuss politics and express my views. I am not sure they expected me to be a Conservative though…

What makes the Battersea constituency, where you have lived for quite some years, special for you?

There is a great deal that is special about our area. But for me, it is the variety on offer – the town centres in Battersea, Nine Elms, Balham, and Clapham Junction, the excellent green spaces (Battersea Park being the best park in London of course), and the thriving local businesses. All this combined with the diverse range of people and international feel (my ward has a thriving French community) makes it a great place to live.

Tom Pridham and Jonathan Cook Lavender councillors – Credit: Tom Pridham

You worked as a wine expert. What can you bring from your previous activity to the role of an MP?

Yes, I worked for quite a few years as a sommelier. I think people often have a misconception about the role and think that it is extremely glamorous. In reality, it consists of working long hours (I once worked twenty 13 hour days on the bounce) to very high standards for modest pay. There are several things that transfer well into politics – firstly an understanding of what it’s like to work in a job that is not highly paid despite requiring hard work. Secondly, an ability to relate to different people (other staff and customers) and get a sense of what they want. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, a resilience and ability to put in hard graft.

The life of a local councillor is a lot of hard, unrewarded work behind the scenes.  What have you learned as a councillor here that you will bring to national politics?

Yes, being a councillor can sometimes be hard work, particularly given that most councillors undertake their duties alongside a day job, as I do. In order to do the job effectively, one has to be very good at time management and prioritisation; skills that are essential to being a good Member of Parliament. The most important thing I’ve learnt as a councillor is that it is absolutely impossible to put people in boxes. We often hear about how a certain group of people think one thing and if you have a certain opinion on one issue you will have a specific opinion on another. In reality, every person you speak to is unique. It’s important to take everyone on their own terms.

What are you most proud of doing in your time as a Battersea councillor?
As an opposition councillor, it can sometimes be difficult to achieve change, as the majority party run the Council and effectively makes all the key decisions. The things I’ve been proudest of as a councillor are actually the individual pieces of casework that I’ve managed to get resolved. People come to their local councillor with a whole range of problems such as lifts not working, noise nuisances and unfair fines. Many people are (often for understandable reasons) somewhat cynical and disillusioned with politics and politicians. Being able to actually effect change and deliver things for people can be very rewarding. After I resolved one such issue, someone told me that I had “restored their faith in public service”, which was a very nice thing for them to say.

With the busiest station at the heart of Battersea, and many of us relying on public transport – what local transport improvements & developments would you push for as an MP?

Transport is a big issue and one that I have focused on quite a bit in my campaign. We are lucky to have Clapham Junction as such a big transport hub right at the heart of the constituency. My view is that we need to find ways to take the pressure off it and improve transport connectivity to the north. The first thing we should do is make it easier to cross the river on foot by building the Cremorne footbridge, giving residents in North Battersea better access to connections north of the river. The second thing we should do is reopen Battersea High Street Station, in between Clapham Junction and Imperial Wharf on the overground. Finally, and this is perhaps a longer term goal, I would like to see the Northern Line extended through north Battersea, further taking pressure off Clapham Junction.

We should always encourage people to use public transport wherever possible – however, we also have to be mindful that, for some people, cars will be necessary and we need to make sure that people feel confident making environmentally friendly choices, such as using electric vehicles. Ultimately, as numerous polls show, people care deeply about the environment and I think we should trust them to make sensible environmental decisions rather than telling them what to do when we may not understand their circumstances.

Housing is also a key concern here.  Many of our readers worry about the proposals we keep seeing for giant new blocks of flats, way exceeding the rules in the Local Plan.  However these projects justify their scale on the grounds that they also provide a proportion of affordable housing.  Where do you think is the right balance between providing the social housing we need, and making sure that our urban environment remains one people want to live in?

This is always a difficult issue for community politicians to navigate and the right balance will always depend on the specific circumstances in question. One of the things I care most about is making home ownership attainable and affordable and, for that to become a reality, we need to increase the supply of housing. Nevertheless, I can fully understand why people feel aggrieved when a development is proposed that feels out of kilter with their view of the area. Ultimately, politicians (whether MPs or councillors) are in a position to reflect the concerns of residents to developers and local authorities and work to find a way to build more housing (ideally through good design and more gentle density) in a way that residents feel comfortable with.

We were one of the most anti-Brexit constituencies in the country, and it may have cost our previous Conservative MP Jane Ellison her seat.  Have we moved on from that now?  And where do we go from here?

Well, I’ll start by saying that I think it’s been a huge shame for the area to lose Jane as a Member of Parliament. She was a fantastic local MP who worked very hard across a number of different communities and was always immensely responsive to her constituents.

Brexit is obviously an issue that evokes strong feelings on both sides of the debate and there are some people for whom it remains the key issue. However, to be honest, this is not raised that often with me on the doorstep anymore and I think people have begun to move on. My hope is that, as a society, we focus more on the future of our relationship with allies in Europe (where we have done excellent work on Ukraine) and beyond rather than refight the Brexit debate. I believe this is already happening.

As Brexit happened, there were two key issues locally that I was anxious to see resolved – getting settled status for our EU residents, and agreeing bilateral frameworks with the EU and elsewhere to maintain the competitiveness of London’s services sector. I am proud of the work that the Conservative Government has done on both these fronts. I am also especially proud of the work that the previous Conservative-led Wandsworth Council did in funding Citizens Advice Wandsworth to create a bespoke service to assist EU residents with their settlement status rights.

Has the Conservative party fallen out of love with London in the last few years, with the talk all about ‘levelling up’ and focussing spending and priorities elsewhere?  Why should Londoners still support the party?

It is of course true that the Conservative Party has had a challenging few years in London but I am hopeful that the tide will turn in the years ahead. We’ve already seen indications in some parts of the city that there is growing discontent with Labour rule and, here in Wandsworth, we gained a council seat off Labour in May. The main thing that drives me to be a Conservative is that it is the party of ambition, the party of business and the party that recognises that the best way to drive economic growth and improve society is by encouraging people to reach their full potential rather than stifling it through over-regulation and a statist attitude. I believe these values do still resonate in London.

The situation in Gaza is a concern for many, especially in London. What do you think should be the next government’s position?

Like many in Battersea, I’ve found the situation in Gaza and Israel extremely concerning. I also know that a number of Battersea residents are directly affected by the ongoing conflict there.

This is a difficult and complicated situation to respond to. I believe the Government has taken the right stance on this. On the one hand, supporting Israel’s right to defend itself following a barbaric terrorist attack from Hamas. On the other, pushing to ensure that as much aid as possible can be delivered to the people of Gaza who have been so badly let down by Hamas dragging them into an unnecessary conflict. The ultimate goal must be a two-state solution, which has been the UK’s long-standing position.

And finally – why should our readers vote for you?

At this election there is a choice between a Labour-led Government and a Conservative-led Government. I know that the last few years have been a difficult time for many but – in spite of all these difficulties – I would urge people in Battersea to compare the two approaches on offer. I think Rishi Sunak has dealt well with a difficult situation and has the right priorities as Prime Minister. I do not believe that a Starmer Government has the right solutions for our country, and I think Labour’s proposals would be particularly bad for our area. Policies such as the introduction of VAT on private schools, the introduction of higher Council Tax bands (which could see bills skyrocket) and the introduction of capital gains tax liability on primary residences will have a particularly negative impact on constituents in Battersea.

I am a proud Battersea resident and, if elected as your Member of Parliament, I will stand up to Sadiq Khan and the Labour Council in Wandsworth and fight your corner on the issues that affect your day to day lives.

Conservatives’ team campaigning with Tom Pridham – Credit: Tom Pridham

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CJI editor and Clapham Junction Action Group co-founder and coordinator since 2008, Cyril has lived in Clapham Junction since 2001.
He is also funder and CEO of Habilis-Digital Ltd, a digital agency creating and managing websites and Internet solutions.

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