'National Service would take violence off our streets': What residents in London's Tory stronghold have to say ahead of General Election

(Left to right) Rita, Marion and Jackie who voted Conservative in 2019 are undecided ahead of July 4
-Credit: (Image: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon)


Boris Johnson's Conservative Party of 2019 resonated more with people in Hornchurch and Upminster than anywhere else in London. As the former Prime Minister doubled down on delivering Brexit against a struggling Labour Party, some 65.8 per cent of voters in the East London constituency voted Conservative.

This is the biggest majority ever recorded in the Essex border seat which has voted Tory since its creation in 2010. But chat to locals in the area today and you'll quickly realise just how much of an impact COVID, Brexit and the Cost of Living Crisis has had on the Conservatives' grip on London's Tory stronghold.

"We've not made our minds up at the moment," 82-year-old Rita told MyLondon while she sat on a bench in Upminster Park with her friends Marion, 83, and Jackie, 76. "Everyone’s just out for themselves. Both Labour and the Conservatives made commitments in government they never stuck to."

READ MORE: London's Lib Dem strongholds split on Ed Davey election antics as lifelong Tory voters abandon party

Hornchurch and Upminster returned the largest Tory majority in London with 65.8 per cent of the vote
Hornchurch and Upminster returned the largest Tory majority in London with 65.8 per cent of the vote -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

All three of them voted for the Conservative Party in 2019, but expressed a sense of melancholy about returning to the ballot box on July 4. This being said, disastrous projections from ElectionMapsUK which predict the Conservatives will win just 106 seats, still give the party a 12 per cent lead in Hornchurch and Upminster.

Additionally, many elderly voters in the constituency have backed Rishi Sunak's policy of introducing National Service for 18-year-olds. "It might take some of the violence off the streets," Rita added. "If you’re taking that amount of people out then it might help combat knife crime.

"It’s sadly lots of young people who are involved and it’s such a waste of life. I was brought up in a rough area when I was young and people would often have fights, but there wouldn’t be knives involved."

Marion went one step further. "They should bring back Borstals to give young offenders some discipline. They used to toughen people up, otherwise they won't think twice about reoffending."

Rita, Marion and Jackie believe younger generation aren't willing to make the same sacrifices
Rita, Marion and Jackie believe younger generation aren't willing to make the same sacrifices -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

When asked about particular problems younger people face today - such as increasing rents, unaffordable property prices and mounting student debt - Rita, Marion and Jackie believe many people are not willing to make enough sacrifices.

"It was hard for me to get on the housing ladder, but we didn’t want anything," Rita added. "We got a house, and were thankfully able to upsize again but when we moved we’d decorate just one room at a time.

"We are from a generation that saved, not the generation we have now. No one has given us anything. My parents were poor and I went to hospital for malnutrition when I was a child, I know what it feels like to be hard-up.

"So I do get irritated when I hear things like ‘look at the life pensioners lead now’." Nigel Farage's unveiling as the Reform Party's new leader will potentially cause even more difficulty for the Conservatives who have endured a rough election campaign to date.

Clacton-on-Sea, the seat where Farage is set to run, is situated just an hour from Hornchurch and Upminster. Reform are particularly targeting Brexit-voting areas who backed the Tories in 2019 but have since become disillusioned with the British political.

GB News reports Reform are targeting Thurrock, which neighbours Hornchurch and Upminster, along with 11 other seats in the UK. Although MyLondon spoke to residents before Farage's announcement, the Reform party was already in the minds of voters in the area.

"I’ve read their [Reform's] policies and it would make Britain a utopia," Rita added. "They want to change everything - the boats, the tax, you name it. I haven’t decided but I’ve thought about voting for them.

"We’ve given this country away. We don’t manufacture anything, foreign companies own so much of our assets. We even sold off Royal Mail. How can you run a country when you don’t own anything?"

Noreen Kingston thinks backing Reform would be a "wasted vote"
Frances poses for photos in Hornchurch in Upminster in east London, Britain 03 June 2024. Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

Speaking opposite Upminster station, Noreen Kingston told MyLondon it would be a "wasted vote" to back Reform due to the strong support the Conservatives enjoy in the constituency.

She plans to reluctantly vote for the Tories again on July 4 due to their policies on tax. "I’m old and I’m not going to live so much longer, but want I pass on to my son who will just get taxed through the nose. I’ve worked hard all my life to get a nice house."

Despite the enthusiasm expressed for National Service by other voters in Hornchurch and Upminster, Noreen is not convinced Sunak would be able to deliver the policy.

"I agree with it to a point but I don’t think they’d go through with it," she added. "My husband did National Service in Germany and he told me at first he was against going. But in the end he actually quite enjoyed it

"The problem is how will they pay for it, and youngsters definitely won’t want to go. I can see where young people are coming from who are against it, but when I was young we had apprenticeships so we were used to working and having responsibilities as teenagers.

"More of this is needed today. I’d never vote for Labour or Lib Dems so I guess I’ll need to vote Conservative."

Don't miss out on the biggest East London news. Sign up to our MyEastLondon newsletter HERE for all the latest daily news and more.