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Crosby’s mimicry is too little, too late

Redbox article 16/04/2015First published on the Times Redbox

The Conservative party’s apparent political cross-dressing has left many people puzzling over why the party is talking about matters traditionally viewed as Labour strengths. In fact, this is classic Lynton Crosby.

Known as the ‘Australian Karl Rove’, and ‘The Wizard of Oz’, Crosby has long been associated with the negative campaigning that became the signature of the 2005 general election.

But he is also a master of mimicry. When things are going well for his opponent, and he cannot easily demolish it or find a way to fold it into the Conservative message, he will go all out and ape it. (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.

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‘D’ is for disillusioned

First published on Progressonline

Arriving in Kingswood on the outskirts of Bristol to be met by Labour’s candidate Jo McCarron, a clutch of local activists, croissants and hot coffee, was the sounding gun of a week-long tour. Our trusty battlebus, sadly not pink, toured 21 of Labour’s 106 target seats. Another team visited the south Wales marginals on Tuesday while we covered north Wales.

The most interesting but not surprising finding is that the polls are bang on. The election is wide open. There is everything to play for. Labour is out-working the Tories, the Tories are out-spending Labour. Nothing new here, but, considering the late stage of the parliament, huge swaths of voters who have traditionally decided elections are still unsure. Door after door, activists would return to the board-runner – the person who holds the clipboard containing the chosen voter information from Labour’s national ContactCreator system – with the code ‘D’. Normally noted to signify that the corresponding person in their most recent conversation is a ‘Don’t know’, this time ‘D’ is for disillusioned. (more…)

Nice to feel wanted

First published in Progress magazine

English marginals need real attention

During the course of a campaign that ran at full speed for longer than can reasonably be expected, Better Together mobilised members of both the frontbench and the backbenches of Labour’s Westminster and Holyrood teams in the effort to save the union. Both the official ‘No’ campaign and the Labour party pulled in resources to combat the nationalists. In the last few months organisers were moved from southern English target seats as far away as Plymouth, key campaigners were moved from English and Welsh marginals and in the last week of the campaign regional offices across the country upped sticks and were out knocking doors for our Scottish cousins. Indeed, from Hogmanay onwards I was the lucky recipient of increasingly panicked texts and emails about venturing north to help the Better Together campaign.

This was no doubt the right thing to do but it does prompt several avenues of questioning. (more…)

The 3 seats challenge

Starting the New Year as we mean to go on

Alex Baker and I are planning a little road trip to help three of our favourite candidates.
We are calling it the 3 seats challenge (‪#‎Lab3seats‬):

Saturday 4 January 2014

08.00: Meet Brixton tube for road trip (Music provided by Ben Dilks)
10.00: On the ‪#‎LabourDoorstep‬ for Peter Kyle (PPC for Hove and Portslade)
12.30: Hit the road (packed lunch provided by Hove CLP)
13.30: On the #LabourDoorstep for Chris Oxlade (PPC for Crawley)
16.00: Roadtrip back to London (arrive about 18.00)

Sunday 5 January 2014

11.00: Meet for #LabourDoorstep at Gants Hill tube (Central Line) to help Wes Streeting (PPC for Ilford North)
13.30: Sunday lunch at the Havester in Ilford (optional)
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Our island story

First published in Progress magazine

Straight after the local elections Labour will embark on selecting its first 26 candidates for general election 2015, all in seats we lost at the last election which have been designated ‘island’ seats, unlikely to be adjacent to other Labour seats after the forthcoming boundary review. In every constituency the Labour candidate will be up against incumbent Tories, apart from one Liberal Democrat, in Norwich South. Spread across the south, Midlands and eastern England, they are key targets for Labour and tests for the leadership. We must win all of these to gain a Labour majority in the next parliament.

Being selected so early in a parliament has obvious downsides – it is going to be a long old slog till the next election. But those willing to grasp the nettle have a unique opportunity to prove themselves and trial a new style of organising.

Selection for these seats will provide a vital voice for Labour in areas where we currently go unheard. With Cambridgeshire, Essex, Gloucestershire, Kent, Norfolk, Suffolk, Surrey, Sussex and Wiltshire all without a single Labour MP, those willing to start campaigning now will deliver real change locally. Important seats like Crawley, Dover, Harlow, Hove, Ipswich and Waveney are miles away from any Labour MP’s route home to their constituencies, so visits there from shadow cabinet members and MPs are going to take extra effort, time and resources. Just having candidates in place making these demands of the upper echelons of the party will push their seats up the agenda. We desperately need to reacquaint ourselves with voters in these regions and motivate new and existing party members to fight back for Labour. (more…)