Testing the Tarry approach

First published on the Huffington Post

Managing the Labour party in a United Kingdom general election is surely one of the most difficult campaign jobs in British politics. The daily media cycle, the Murdoch press, the key marginals, pressured candidates, a lack of resources and currently an 18 point polling deficit.

What a relief it must be to those nervous Labour members of parliament looking at that huge Tory lead to know that Dagenham councillor Sam Tarry outlines in a thorough interview with the Huffington Post his desire to run the campaign.

With that huge Tory lead it’s obvious that a large number of Labour MPs now fear for their seats. Replacing current campaign chief Jon Trickett MP (someone who backbench MPs respect even when they disagree), with my old friend Sam would be a fatal smack in the face to those MPs facing close fights next time.

Not only is Sam completely unqualified for the position but his views on Labour MPs would create panic on the backbenches and a lack of confidence in the campaign.

In his deliberate attempt to set out his stall Sam goes on to explain how he views the PLP: “There are a huge amount of people in the PLP who just have this huge sense of entitlement. But have no skills in terms of community organising. No skills in terms of building a movement. No strategy for winning a general election and are kind of quite intellectually bankrupt“.

Labour MPs I have spoken to today fear a ‘Tarry campaign’ would be all about controlling resources away from MPs not 100% loyal to Jeremy Corbyn regardless of the cost in seats to Labour. These comments will only affirm their darkest fears.

If Corbyn wants to build a united team, reach out to the wider parliamentary Labour party and to give them the confidence that the campaign will be professionally run in the interests of the whole party then he needs to reject this blatant approach from the TSSA political officer.

Even if Sam took a more emollient view with those he sees as future colleagues in parliament, what are his qualifications for this job?

Yes, he played a key role in the Jeremy for Leader campaign but despite media reports he was not the campaign director, that was veteran Bennite Jon Lansman. But that campaign left its curator “kind of disappointed”, Sam tells the HuffPo team.


But it is one thing helping to manage an internal selection contest with a membership that is already strongly in favour of your candidate and it is another thing running a full national election campaign across 650 seats, with tens of millions of voters and with a truly dreadful polling position.

So which marginal seats has Sam won? How many years of experience does he bring to the table? I do not know of one seat he has master minded from the Tories. Give him his due, he has won a reasonably safe council seat a couple of times in East London but then on each occasion he’s managed finished the bottom of the three Labour candidates.

But even within that limited experience he’s still managed to make national headlines.

So hardly the CV or experience you’d expect for this position.

So a lack of experience and an ability to create further panic in the PLP. Surely all this risk must be worth some big idea? Something that can turnaround the 18 point Tory lead? No – Sam wants to bring the campaign techniques honed in the leadership election into the UK general election.

More big Corbyn rallies. More speaking to people that already support you. More ignoring the ‘mainstream media’ for the Morning Star and the Canary. More of the same results in Nuneaton and Rugby.

But having seen Sam up close – he was my successor as national chair of Young Labour – he does have some skill: he is good at self-promotion.

While it is hard to see Trickett being side-lined for Sam right now it’s not inconceivable he could end up in parliament soon. Indeed with a by-election in Richmond now underway why not test the Tarry approach in a real and challenging campaign.

Tarry for Richmond.

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