First published on Progressonline
Richard Angell explains Progress’ new campaign to capitalise on the coalition MPs abandoning their seats
It is clear that the Tories do not believe in David Cameron’s premiership. There has long been sniping, if not the threat of outright revolt. Many of his members of parliament, though, are voting with their feet. Two have taken their ball with them and gone off to play with the United Kingdom Independence party. Louise Mensch quit for New York and handed her seat to Labour’s Andy Sawford. Among the 29 who have announced they are standing down, eight are doing so after just one term and seven are in Labour’s list of 106-target seats. Each might have their own given reason but what Cameron cannot deny is that this is a historic abandoning of their posts. Worse still, it is a damning critique of the first Tory government of the 21st century.
The Liberal Democrats, who have a general election strategy based on 57 by-elections rather than a national campaign, are facing a similar picture. Nine are standing down, including in seats on the Tory 40/40 target list (Grant Shapps’ plan to hold and target seats that looks more like 60/40 these days) and two of them in target seats for Labour. Out of the nine coalition MPs standing down in Labour’s target seat list, Sarah Teather is the only one to have done more than one term.
Labour has been gifted an advantage in one in 10 of its targets, a chance to buck the incumbency bounce that Peter Kellner describes here. Labour must press home that advantage.
This is where Progress comes in. As the incumbent flies off, Progress flies in. On Saturday 10 January, both a Progress strategy board representative and a member of staff, plus as many volunteers as we can muster, will be in each of these nine seats. We invite every Labour member, affiliated union member, supporter, and anyone else who wants to get this terrible government out, to come and join us. We meet in each seat at 11am and 2pm:
Brent Central, Dawn Butler Willesden Green station, Walm Lane NW2 4QT
Cannock Chase, Janos Toth 11 Market Street, Hednesford Cannock WS12 1AY
Cardiff North, Mari Williams 13 Llangranog Road, Cardiff CF14 5BL
Dudley South, Natasha Millward Crossgate Road, Netherton DY2 0SY
Erewash, Catherine Atkinson Long Eaton train station, Tamworth Road, Long Eaton NG10 3GS
Hove, Peter Kyle 99 Church Road, Hove BN3 2BA
North Warwickshire, Mike O’Brien Tesco car park, Leicester Street, Bedworth CV12 8SY
Redcar, Anna Turley 10 Milbank Terrace, Redcar TS10 1ED
South Ribble, Veronica Bennett Fleece Inn pub, Liverpool Road, Penwortham, Preston PR1 9XD
These nine simultaneous campaign days make up ‘Operation Flight’. Lewis Baston profiles each seat here. They include Cannock Chase, seat of the disgraced Aidan Burley who thought it appropriate to buy a Nazi uniform, and Ian Swales who claims to have saved steelworks in Redcar when credit lies with Community Union and the last Labour government.
We really hope you can join us as we start the new year as we mean to go on: by campaigning for a Labour victory and chalking up wins for Ed Miliband.
Richard Angell is director of Progress