The game is on, and you need to win back your seat. You are probably being flooded by good advice about what to do next. You can succeed. You did succeed two years ago. So many of your constituents have been badly affected by seven years of Tory rule. You must be able to get them out to vote for you.
What I have collected here are a few critical ideas about what must be done to be successful when Labour are down so badly in the polls. There are many more but this is the start. If you find these points useful please pass them on.
- You must urgently gain the initiative by setting the agenda within your own constituency. You have to make the political weather yourself in your own district. Do not wait for Central Office to do something for you and do not necessarily plan your campaign by parroting what comes from the Central Office. You know best of all what is important in your constituency. Focus on that all the time! You are not trying to win a general election. You’re trying to win a local constituency election only.
- Clear the decks socially. Cancel any and every non-critical event you have in your calendar. Modern media need immediate responses and your time is no longer your own for the next weeks.
- You need to develop rapidly a written campaign plan that you update regularly. You must be prepared to change it as soon as part of it looks unsatisfactory.
- You must understand exactly what the financial constraints are on your campaign, what you can do and what you’re not allowed to do. The rules can be quite strict.
- You and what you have done locally is much more important than what is happening in the Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn’s policies are very popular but he is not. Most candidates will avoid using his picture on their flyers. You have to emphasise your own achievements and only include pictures of senior Labour people if you think they will enhance your position. Avoid pictures of anyone with less positive associations.
- Identify how you will create contrast between your policies with those of the other candidates. Carefully check what they are saying and claiming, and look for areas where they are weaker.
- Each constituency will have close to 1000 new members that joined to support more radical left policies. They need to be contacted urgently, including those who have let their subscriptions lapse, and asked to help. Hold a meeting urgently and get them to help you focus on the best policies to emphasise locally.
- Your local party machine may not be so happy about bringing in large numbers of these new members who they probably don’t trust very much. They are an invaluable resource and you must do everything to engage them in the struggle we are all facing.
- Identify a handful amongst the new members who can give talks and put in helpful appearances around the constituency. If you don’t you will end up by doing too many yourself and getting exhausted. You must retain enough energy to survive the next few weeks of gruelling and possibly quite nasty electioneering.
- Try to find individuals who know about printing and can redesign your election materials. Make sure every photograph of a Labour Party member shows individuals neatly dressed, well turned out and looking professional. Look very critically at the printed materials your local party produces now.
- Think about how you will use social media to boast and support your campaign. Make it easy for electors to follow you, and make sure you provide something for them at very regular intervals. Once you have got people following you you mustn’t let them lose interest. Get help from members who know how to be effective with social media outlets.
- Encourage the new members to canvas for you in your constituency.
- Make sure you provide crib cards four canvassers to cover most of the obvious questions they will come across.
- Make sure canvassers don’t start with “vote for Labour” rather ask what most concerns them about the future and explain how Labour will help with that.
- Above all, encourage canvassers to let people feel Labour will bring back hope, hope for the future, hope for themselves and hope for their families.
- Have regular meetings of the faithful to keep them enthusiastic and working together for you and for your election.
- Emphasise what people have lost in the last seven years, and how much more they will lose. Theresa May promised an end to austerity when appointed Prime Minister but nothing has happened and the cuts have deepened.
- Try to avoid mentioning “benefits”. Emphasise how the take-home pay in people’s pockets has been cut and cut.
One line answers to questions canvassers will be asked:
Q: Do you support Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader/Prime Minister?
A: He is the leader. However I will always prioritise the needs of my constituents.
Q: But a Labour government got us into all this mess surely?
A: No, it was the world economic crisis, made even worse by Tory austerity.
Q: Labour is the party of tax-and-spend surely?
A: Labour is the party of tax the rich and spend on the poor, not the other way round as we have under the Tories.
Q: What will you do about the NHS, education, social care?
A: Invest heavily in infrastructure. We will reverse many of the thoughtless cuts they have introduced that damage our society just to save small amounts of money.
Q: And how will you pay for all these new spending commitments?
A: Labour will end austerity and raise money in the same way Tories to privately to help prepare the damage they have done. Borrowing money for investment in infrastructure does not worsen the deficit.
Q: What about immigration? Aren’t Labour soft on immigration?
A: We will only allow enough immigration to fill the jobs we cannot fill locally. We need enough to keep the economy working well for everybody.
Q: What about Brexit?
A: Labour will support Brexit but only a deal that is fair for all, not just fair for big business and the south-east of England.
Q: What will you do about inequality, city bonuses etc?
A: We will restore the inheritance tax on expensive properties, make sure companies pay all the tax they owe and increase the income tax on the wealthiest. Our taxation policies will be much fairer for all.
Q: How will you deal with the housing crisis?
A: Labour will invest in affordable housing in much larger quantity than the Tories have even talked about (and not delivered, of course). They will borrow money to invest in these developments so as not to affect the deficit.
Q:…………….. and there will be lots of local questions about what Labour will do about local worries. These questions need to be articulated when drawing up the crib cards.
What about more detailed questions about Labour’s economic policy. No doubt that will be produced by the Labour central office. You may find many of the possibilities for a left-wing budget here: http://outsidethebubble.net/2017/04/11/outline-radical-centre-left-budget-revision-1/
What will your opponents say and do?
- They will continue to blame our economic performance on the Labour legacy from seven years ago. The answer is to ask why the Tories haven’t fixed it already, and why is almost everyone is still worse off than they were in 2008.
- They will want to bring the focus as often as possible onto Jeremy Corbyn who they feel is a Labour Party weak point. Don’t let them do it. Simply say the local candidate is concerned about local priorities and local concerns. Move the topic away from Jeremy Corbyn as quickly as possible.
- They will say that Labour Party policies don’t add up. Say that simply not true. Increasing taxation on the wealthy in order to pay for our vital local services is what we will do. All the Tories want to do is continue with more and more cuts on everything you value dear.
- What about the Lib Dems? They were so ineffective in the coalition that we ended up with the shambles we have today.
- The Tories keep claiming that they are the party of the hard-working families. It simply not true. They are the party of the rich for the rich. The Tory cabinet is one of the wealthiest ever. Most have been to private schools and Oxbridge and have little experience of the real world outside Westminster. We need a government that understands just how badly hard-working families have been hit in the last seven years. Do people really want it to go on for another five years like it has been? Labour will make the best job of Brexit and the best job of running the economy in a way to be fair for all.
- Be prepared for a fairly nasty bruising campaign. The right-wing are in full cry and totally confident in the ability of Theresa May with the enormous poll advantage she appears to have. Don’t bother attacking her other than pointing out that she hasn’t delivered anything very much in the nearly 12 months she has been Prime Minister. Focus on the inadequacies of the other local candidates. Avoid letting them ever set the agenda.
This campaign will be hard and brutal. If it goes badly Labour will be reduced to an impotent rump. Remember what happened to the Lib Dems in 2015. It needs your energies, efforts and enthusiasm to make sure that doesn’t happen in 2017. Good luck!