First publihsed on Progressonline
The first two days of the Labour three seats challenge have centred around the M5.
Ben Bradshaw represents Exeter, the start of the duel carriageway. Labour holds two of the Bristol members of parliament, but otherwise you have to get all the way to Birmingham to find your next Labour parliamentarian. Since 2010 there are no Labour MPs representing the people who currently live on its banks. It is, however, the home of the once symbolic Worcester woman – all important to winning the 1997 election and now hosts six target seats that will be key in determining whether Ed Miliband walks into No 10 this May.
The M5 is the only single digit motorway that does not originate in London. For this reason Labour MPs rarely pass through. This is not the case with marginals on the M1, A1 and M4 as they return to Labour’s heartlands in the north, Scotland and Wales. This can have an impact on how the party relates to these voters and best supports its candidates.
In contrast though this is not a ‘no-go’ area for Labour.
The bus might not be pink but it is full of excellent Labour activists. In each location we pounded the streets and had hundreds of conversations. The five female, and one male, candidates dotted along the route are some of the longest serving candidates standing in 2015. Each of these seats were considered by the national executive committee as ‘island’ seats because they were unaffected by the then Tory proposed boundary changes. Each candidate is now acting as a proxy MP in certain areas of the community, benefiting from similar name recognition, and has won real changes for their communities before anyone has cast a vote.
In these seats, synonymous with the kind of aspirations mainstreamed in the campaigns of the late 1990s and early 2000s, aspiration is key. Voters raised school places, the NHS, the economy and childcare as the key issues. A coherent and large vision is important, but never more has real examples of how a Labour government will improve things been needed.
Whether it is Jo McCarron, David Drew and Sophy Gardner holding the fort in the south-west or Joy Squires, Rebecca Blake and Jess Philips in the West Midlands, we can be assured it is Labour’s candidates that are fighting for every vote and going the extra mile.
Richard Angell is director of Progress