general election 2015

Why Labour must win over Tory voters

First published on the Times Redbox

On Wednesday this week, the chancellor George Osborne used the first majority Conservative budget to implement much of the Tories’ manifesto for Britain – and no small part of the Labour one. Labour members of parliament were open-mouthed at the spectacle of a Tory chancellor shaking up ‘non dom’ status. They were in outright shock at his creation of a new minimum wage rate for the over-25s and the audacity of calling it a ‘living wage’.

Many were left simply depressed. As Labour looked on and made its protests about the detail, Tory MP after Tory MP took to the airwaves to repeat the same lines over and over. They were so effective that I can already repeat it verbatim: ‘Moving from a low pay, high tax, high welfare society to a high wage, low tax, low welfare one’. As the comment rolled on there was one statement that never got muttered by Tories of any wing, stripe or faction of the party: ‘that Osborne is just Labour-lite’. (more…)

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…)

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…)

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…)

Operation Flight

Operation FlightFirst 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. (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…)