A Conservative councillor thinks he might have some lessons for Labour politicians wondering why their voters have deserted them for the Tories.

It is the same journey made by Tory ward representative for Lydiard and Freshbrook Matty Courtliff, who was re-elected last week as his party increased its majority in Swindon Borough Council to 15 seats.

Coun Courtliff first won the seat in 2016 as a Labour candidate but left and joined the Conservatives in 2019.

And he says his family background is exactly that of red wall voters who have deserted Labour both in Swindon and across the country.

He said: “I grew up in Leigh in Lancashire. When you grow up there you just learn that it’s a Labour town, you are a Labour voter.”

But like many solidly Labour seats in the north of England and northern Wales, Leigh was captured by the Conservatives at the 2019 general election.

Coun Courtliff said: “We saw something similar here last week in Swindon’s red wall seats.

"There were some seats we thought we might have a chance – we already had a seat in Penhill & Upper Stratton, but I still can’t work out what happened in Central. I didn’t expect that – it made winning Rodbourne Cheney, and Liden, Eldene & Park South look like just another day at the office.”

But it’s the wards where Labour held on, Mannington & Western and Gorse Hill & Pinehurst, which hold lessons forCoun Courtliff too.

He said: “I think we could have won there if Kevin Small and Ray Ballman didn’t have years of working for their residents there.

“And that’s important, making sure you are in touch with the people in the area, making sure you know what matters to them.

“I think nationally lots of people who were Labour voters feel the party doesn’t represent them anymore, it’s not in touch with their concerns. A lot of people in some of Swindon’s wards want a change and feel Labour isn’t offering that.”

Coun Courtliff added: “I think we have been lent votes in many of the former Labour wards, and we mustn’t take them for granted.

"We can keep them by getting the basics right. We have to make sure bin collections happen on time, that the roads are clean and nice-looking, that potholes are fixed, that everywhere in Swindon is a nice attractive place to live, that people feel pride in.

“I think the state of Cavendish Square is a big issue in the Parks and that needs to be sorted out.”

“I’ve learned that over the last four years – I have worked hard with Tim Swinyard and Caryl Sydney-Smith on those fundamentals, and I quadrupled my majority, so I think I must have been doing something right.”