35 per cent strategy

You need more votes than your opponents, not predecessors

First published on LabourList

Elections are simple affairs in a first-past-the-post country. The task of the candidate is to get more votes than their opponent. Not 50 per cent of the vote, nor a reliance on being enough people’s second preferences to deny your adversary victory. Just more – one will suffice – than the other person standing.

The role of the party leader is not dissimilar. More votes than the party on the opposite benches and you invariably get more seats in the House of Commons. This has been true in every election for time immemorial bar, February 1974 when the Conservatives beat Labour by more than 200,000 votes, but had four fewer seats, and 1951 when the reverse was true. 2015 was no close run thing. Labour polled two million fewer votes than the Tories. (more…)

Doing us proud: Why did some win against the tide?

11.15am, Saturday 16 May 2015 | Progress annual conference 2015

Ben Bradshaw MP Exeter
Peter Kyle MP Hove
Richard Angell Director, Progress
Sheila Murphy Campaign consultant
Chair: Rachel Hodson Progress strategy board

Labour has to be honest about the hole that it’s in

First published on The Staggers

Labour suffered a “hidden landslip” at the polls last week. Getting out of the hole requires some frank conversations.

Let us be in no doubt how bad last week’s result was. We lost – I repeat – lost eight seats to the Tories, and of the 88 seats we were targeting to win from the Tories we gained just 10 and reduced their majority in only a further 10.

Our prospects at the next election now look more distant than ever. Had we this time around gained 3,000 net votes per seat from our closest rival we would have gained 49 seats. Next time, if we rose 3,000 net votes against seats’ new majorities we would gain just 24. Just as Joan Ryan identified the ‘hidden landslide’ – 2005 seats won from Labour by the Conservatives which massively increased their majorities against us in 2010 – this time we witnessed the ‘hidden landslip’  of our party sliding further away in the seats we need to win just to get near a majority. The Staggers’ own Stephen Bush has calculated the large swings Labour would now need to secure in target seats if it is to return in 2020. (more…)

Now is not the time for timidity

First published on LabourList

The Conservatives should not even have been in contention in this election. With apparent disregard for its failure to win a majority in 2010, the Tory party abandoned modernisation as soon as it entered office. It haemorrhaged support, in both voter base and parliamentary party, to the United Kingdom Independence party. It has presided over sluggish economic growth which was not felt by most across the country. And it has entrenched negative attitudes about itself – which will endure now for many decades more – among previous swing voters in places like Scotland, Manchester and London.

And yet for all these failures, the Conservative party’s aggressive belief that it alone speaks for the majority of Britain – arrogant and wrong though it may be – dragged it from the depths of the omnishambles budget in 2012 to apparently neck and neck with Labour on polling day. (more…)

Campaign for a Labour majority

First published on Progressonline

When Labour loses power it does worse in the following general election. Think 1955, 1983. Even in 1974 when we returned to power after one term, we did so on a lower share of the vote than we lost with in 1970. Even when we create new political institutions, we follow suit: sadly this is a trend the Scottish Labour party repeated in 2011.

For all those of us who worked tirelessly for a Labour government in the days, weeks and months that preceded Thursday’s dire result, it is a sickening blow that we ended up with fewer members of parliament than Gordon Brown bestowed his successor in 2010. While there were some good-news stories of the night, these were dwarfed by the loss we feel for candidates who outdid themselves but fell short through no fault of their own. (more…)

The final sweep

First publish on LabourList, and Progress magazine

In the final weeksbefore the general election, as the rapid pursuit for promises becomes more fraught, the election campaign metaphorically turns into the final dash in 1990s television programme Supermarket Sweep. In the Big Sweep round contestants would find themselves torn between collecting Dale Winton’s shopping list and an unknown quantity of inflatable fruit and their hidden bonuses. The latter seemed more attractive but the former guaranteed £100 being added to the shopping total. More importantly, it was a surefire way to victory and the Super Sweep prize money. Getting your strategy right mattered.

(more…)