What Now?

Now the local elections have finished full attention will turn to the General Election campaign for the parties and candidates. I gave our local candidate the evening off yesterday!

But what did the Parties make of the results as they analysed them yesterday?

local lection result BBC

My first reaction was to be shouting at the MPs in the TV studios trying to spin the lines they had been given about what the respective results would mean for them in the #GE17. I think all non political types must scream at the guests who claim its all looking rosy. Even UKIP were somehow trying to pretend things were ok for them after they got wiped out of their local government base. The funniest was the Tories trying to pretend these results weren’t good for them at all. This is clever stuff. You should never look like you take victory for granted or even slightly triumphal. And in fact their Percentage share of the vote at 38% is down on their national polling figures. This was useful for them to remind voters and party workers they are doing ok but at this stage not enough to win the 100+ majority some polls suggest they would achieve. Equally, whilst not really much consolation if we are being honest, it allowed Labour to create the spin that Labour was closing the gap and the results were ‘mixed’. Well if you claim recovering to only being 11 points behind with 5 weeks to go to be a good position I worry for the ambition! And ‘mixed’ – between disastrous and calamitous!

I used to be given the ‘Lines to Take’ but very rarely used them. They were so excruciating to hear being used! I often thought that people had more self respect than to use the lines. Message discipline is one thing but repeating humiliating lines about disastrous election results being ‘mixed’ is beyond the pale.

The best excuse for not taking the local election results too seriously as a prediction for the general election is simply because they are just that – local elections. Whilst this does not mean everybody has turned out to vote for a local candidate and ignored the national picture. Far from it. Most people vote in local election on the national picture but there is always a little weighting for popular local candidates and specific local issues. So whilst it is right to say these figures don’t translate into the General Election they do conform to a pattern in the election cycle. For Labour this is worrying. We are mid term 7 years into a Tory government. Usually Governments are punished at this stage and we would be expecting Labour to be doing well. Hanging on to predictable wins for Andy Burnham and Steve Rotherham in Manchester and Liverpool in no way make up for the horrific losses across the country. Pundits were suggesting we could lose up to 150 council seats. The fact that we were -382 at the end is a nightmare. That’s 382 hard working councillors who can no longer speak up for their local communities. Here in Loughborough hard working Robert Sharp lost his seat on nothing but the national picture. I have analysed the local results and amended some of my thoughts because of these.

IMG_3527   How Leicestershire looks after Thursday…

As I will be acting as the Agent for my good friend Jewel Miah (who was my agent in 2010) I will probably not be adding as many updates during the campaign. However, I am capturing my thoughts and jotting down all those little moments and memories that make up an election campaign to be used after we reflect on the results after June 9th. In fact I am creating a few posts with predictions which are scheduled to be available from the 9th June. I guess these are the equivalent of my ‘brown envelope’ predictions. So this is probably my last few thoughts before we dive into the short campaign. We will be doing our bit in Loughborough to close the gap on the sitting Tory despite the difficult national polling position.

From what I have seen from the Labour leadership they have dismissed the local election results and are suggesting nothing changes. Indeed they are briefing that Jeremy will be even more centre stage for the rest of the campaign and they are hoping that policies will beat the battle of personalities. I have written enough about why policy lists never beat a strong campaign message so that worries me. There is also another great emphasis on the ‘doorstep conversations’ without the prism of the mainstream media. Sadly whilst this is an important part of campaigning it fails to understand how the Tories won in 2015 without any workers on the ground – using direct messages and social media like Facebook. One door knock during the campaign does not make up for the hundreds of other messages and images that make up the campaign for most of the electorate. It really misunderstand what the door knocking is about… its not a 30 minute conversation to change the minds of voters.

So it looks like there will be more of the same from all parties between now and June 9th. More Theresa repeating her strong and stable and Corbyn meeting groups of party members in town centres and policy announcements.

Despite my wish that Tony Benn was right – that elections should be about policies not personalities I am afraid this campaign is being defined as a battle of May v Corbyn.

We are in for a long 5 weeks.

Jewel Miah Selected for Loughborough

I am delighted to say that my former agent and local councillor Jewel Miah has been selected to fight the Loughborough seat on June 8th.

I am sure more details will follow from the Labour Party  but Jewel is already currently fighting to win his Loughborough East County Council seat this Thursday.  Having a hard working local candidate with a track record of speaking up for Loughborough is good news and Jewel will be working tirelessly I am sure to make a dent in the Tories 9000 majority. Jewel Miah has been a good friend and supporter over the years so I will be sending him my best wishes for the election and endorsing him as a good local candidate.

loughborough map

There are so many national and local issue that Jewel can his teeth stuck into to expose the Tories and their policies and their impact on local families.

jewel miahOver the last couple of years I think it has been pretty obvious that I think Corbyn has been an electoral problem for Labour. Nothing I have heard from hundreds of people locally (and wherever I go in the country) who have always voted Labour and now despair at what to do makes me change my view on our leadership. However, in Jewel Miah we have a candidate who we can support locally to be a good championing MP if he gets elected. I believe the sort of country the Tories are creating is no one that the British people want, but with the lack of a credible alternative we may end up with a PM and government we regret for a long time. The Tory plan to keep repeating Strong and Stable and hiding May from the public surely can’t fool people for the entire campaign.

I had planned a series of further blogs throughout the campaign but will probably now spend a bit more time promoting Jewel locally as well. Some of the blogs I write will be scheduled to be posted after the local elections on Thursday and later ones predicting the election will appear on June 9/10th.

So good luck Jewel. You will do a great job representing Labour in Loughborough. At the moment it is a tough ask in a middle England marginal seat.. so best wishes and good luck for June 8th.

gene election

 

That Labour Landslide 20 Years on..

I was going to treat myself to a little celebration of our ’97 Labour victory but May calling  the snap election has somewhat put paid to that. A number of us had a series of events set out to mark the amazing result we achieved in 1997 with that landslide majority but they are all postponed. So my sole celebration is to remind myself of that magical day on 1st May 1997 and the atmosphere in the country that week. It was indeed a ‘New Dawn’

Win 97

I know people will want to jump in and give their verdict on the 13 years that followed and I know even mentioning the name Blair or New Labour in a Blog will cause the usual levels of vitriol we have become accustomed to in recent times to be released on social media. But this little reflection is not about the 13 years that came afterwards – there is plenty of opportunity to articulate what was achieved and what can and should be learned by the mistakes – it is instead about how we got to the point that Labour won and created an electoral coalition.

I had started life in the Labour Party by joining in the ’83 election. I was a student. My student politics had enthused me to join the Party for a Socialist Victory, but the ’83 election defeat and knocking on doors talking to voters in my home area had taught me a great deal. The brand of socialism I favoured as a student wasn’t one shared by most of our voters never mind the ones we needed to convert to support us. The longest Suicide note in history referring to our manifesto was sadly too near the truth.

By 1987 I was standing in the local elections and again being heavily defeated in a solid Tory area. although I sneaked onto the Parish Council in Birstall as a labour candidate because the Tories failed to get their nomination papers in on time! Being one of two Labour councillors with 20 Tories teaches you a lot about the widest range of voters. 

By 1992 I had been asked to fight the unwinnable Loughborough seat as a bit of experience. After we lost the 1992 election I had assumed that was probably the end of my Parliamentary ambitions. However, boundary changes and working with John Smith and then Tony Blair on the continued modernisation of the Party gave me hope that Labour was once again serious about engaging with the voters I had been meeting for a decade. I understood what it would take to win a general election where we needed people to stop voting Tory and start voting Labour! With New Labour we had a party that had started to realise these lessons too. This was not an abandonment of any of values – but a recognition that many of our own voters didn’t like what we had on offer and the many that we needed to win over needed us to understand their hopes, fears and aspirations about their lives. The line from Blair about being tough on crime AND the causes of crime chimed well, because he recognised that our traditional voters didn’t have the same liberal views of criminals as we did. The same was true of aspirational Labour supporters. Blair understood their aspiration – the so called Sierra man (& Worcester Woman). I still hear these things again in this election. Aspiring young couples getting on the housing ladder (if they can) then feel they need to support the Tories because they will look after them. We needed these people to think Labour represented them. We need that feeling again today. When Labour becomes narrow and forgets or even repudiates people who *may* vote Tory then the election is lost. When you look at the demographics of a seat like Loughborough – one that the government of the day needs to win to form a government you have to know and understand the aspirations of Middle England as well as our traditional supporter base. Without that coalition you don’t win Loughborough and you don’t win the election to form a Labour government. Whilst I was never truly a full Blairite or sold on New Labour I did understand its necessity. I remained on the soft left of the Party thereafter. I knew we needed that coalition of support created by new Labour but always hoped we could learn to be more radical with our power as the electorate began to learn to trust is with the economy and that our extra spending on Public Services was not just throwing money at a problem – but bringing results. We saw that in the NHS where 18 MONTH waits became 18 WEEK waits and 90% of us could see a GP in 48 Hours. We showed we could run the economy and improve public services. 

So going back I got selected after the 1992 election to fight the now marginal Loughborough seat – now 55th on the Party Key Seat Strategy and the one that meant we had a majority of 1 if we won it! No pressure then. Well as it turned out there was no pressure on me as we won seats way down the target list and beyond on the 1st May 1997. There were cameras booked into the Town Hall for the count, but as the evening wore on they were shipped elsewhere looking for other Tory MPs to fall as Portillo had earlier. By the time my count was finished the result was obvious and Loughborough was just one of the new 179 majority or 419 Labour seats.

It all now seems obvious and certain. People will say ‘anybody’ could have won that election for Labour. But It wasn’t. It was incredibly hard work and nerve wracking. It had gone wrong in ’92 and it felt like it could all over again at anytime. We were incredibly professional, on-message and disciplined. Nothing was left to chance. The support (and demand) on candidates was amazing. Yes we had our voter i/d targets but these were invaluable to us in ’97 and beyond. I think we changed politics for the better as we engaged with voters in greater numbers than ever before. As soon as we won we were put into election mode for 2001, so that level of campaigning intensity was carried over the next four years. I can assure you we never took the 97 victory for granted and always feared as previous Labour governments had that we might just get one term.

515330912.527723I was incredibly proud of the team of people who became my extended family from 94-97! It was a massive team effort. I made lifelong friends during that time. I think fondly of the people I worked alongside to achieve this result.

 

Many who didn’t join or work for the party were still there throughout making the campaign a pleasant experience. Going into the market place for a street stall was a ‘pleasure’.

As I said, I know people will want to judge the Blair administration from515332904.136236 their own lens. I am not in the mood for rehearsing my defence of those criticisms where people can see no good coming out of those 13 years. I think anybody who can look through these little booklets we produced showing all the gains of a Labour government and still moan are beyond arguing with!

We did instil a sense of Hope. For months after the election I got standing ovations almost everywhere I went. Even those who hadn’t voted for me and Labour were generally happy we actually won. We were ahead in the polls for years (only a small blip during the fuel duty protests put the Tories ahead for a week or two). If anything these expectations were far higher than we could ever achieve. We all discovered governing and making systemic change on difficult and takes time. We allowed the over optimism run away and so people were always going to be disappointed.

As I said I understand why people will want to have a go at the Labour government. But sorry I am not going to join in unless you acknowledge the achievements and changes we made that benefited the country and don’t really bore me with trying to pin the Global recession of 2008 on the government!

IMG_3404

Hopefully Labour will return again some day to understanding the electorate it hopes to serve – not lecturing them about why they are stupid or evil to vote Tory. When we have the Momentum wing of our party telling anybody who doesn’t agree with them to F*** off and join the Tories it is hardly surprising many of the electorate are doing just that. Hopefully the journey back to power will be quicker than the generation I served with – waiting 18 years until we understood how Labour wins.

 

 

 

Safety First Campaign – Can it Last?

I am finding this ‘election campaign’ quite tedious already. This is mainly because the Tories strategy of hiding May away and announcing no policies makes it dull for those who like me are wanting to watch every twist and turn and work out what it means. As Marina Hide outlines in this excellent article this is ‘Health and Safety gone Mad’

I will make sure during the campaign period I maintain a focus on the Tories and the consequences of them winning, because this seems the most likely outcome form the polls. I am not sure this will be enough still for my Momentum trolls! However, the Tories  are making it hard work because they are saying and doing so little. And I guess this is the whole point. As I wrote last week the election campaign where you start with an 18-21 point lead is only there for you to lose. I understand their safety first approach given that May is such a poor performer on the stump. But I am not sure they can keep this up until 8th June. The story of the Tories ‘hiding’ might just start to stick with such a lengthy campaign period and some key voter groups. I am guessing this is a risk they feel worth taking.

As we know Lynton Crosby is back in the fold and his iron discipline and ‘message discipline’ is notorious. It shows already in this campaign. The trouble is for those of us who want to fight a proper election based on trading and comparing manifestos we really do need to know elections don’t work like that – however much we want them to!

We have to understand that most people don’t follow the election in the same way as those of us who have bothered to read this blog this far! They don’t really follow the election at all. You will be absolutely fed up of the phrase strong and stable. It is now a joke amongst journalists who hold sweepstakes at every Tory event about how many times it will be used. But of course they will only use it once in their 20 second bulletin and this is the once a voter *might* just hear it. Most won’t even hear it once a day. This is an example of where political class really is out of touch with ordinary voters. All too often they assume the electorate follows every policy announcement and every twist and turn with the same interest as Party members. What they really forget is that party membership puts you in the slightly strange category!

This is where I am afraid I return to my favourite MUST READ – Don’t think of an Elephant by Lakoff… I have covered this idea of Framing in previous blogs and why an election is all about the Frame or narrative. We know you don’t do lists of policies… voters often like Labour or Democrat (its an American book)  lists of policies but framing means they like Tories or Rep Values and messages much more. We pat ourselves on the back when voters tell us they like our Labour policies. The trouble is that if they don’t like the leader or trust us with their economic future none of this matters. 

Labour is winning the ‘policy list test’ but doesn’t have an overarching theme and message that resonates yet. Some of the polling and focus group work I have seen doesn’t suggest it is having much of an impact because people can’t get past Corbyn. (Huff Post)

On the other hand Labour didn’t give the impression of an Opposition caught out by the surprise snap election. I know Tom Watson MP has been saying for months that May would call an early election and it looks like some planning has gone into being prepared. I say ‘some’ as not having candidates in place across most of the country and not in the marginal seats is a serious mistake as far as I am concerned. I will look at the Labour campaign next week. I am a little worried that there is a simple narrative yet and a string of policy announcement that have been good at grabbing daily headlines haven’t added up yet to a proper strategy. I will also look in a little more depth at what the strategy is trying to achieve. I felt there was quite some bluffing going on from both sides this week.. Corbyn in Harlow a target seat we need to win to form a government and the Tories talking of targeting quite safe Labour seats (Leicester West and Nottingham South around us here in Loughborough). When we have an idea where the resources are being pumped we will know what is really happening. I still suspect we are in the territory of Labour losing up to 100 seats but that it will be a lot less worse than that because of the movement and uncertainty still of voters not wanting to give May a 150 seat majority. Some will return to Labour knowing its safe Corbyn will not be PM. That is certainly a fear for the Tories. Complacency might mean they don’t get the massive majority they desire. I have heard it from moderate Labour & Remain supporters who didn’t want to vote for Labour if it gives Corbyn comfort that he wasn’t beaten too badly and tries to stay on, that they now feel safe voting Labour again. These though processes do mean this is a really tough election to call until we get nearer polling day. I am still not in game for calling this one!

However, as much as we all dislike the Tory safety first tactic it is what will win them the election so they will stick to it. It will really annoy those of us who want to expose the Tories record and their plans for the next 5 years. But they don’t want to engage on this. They want to repeat Strong and Stable and focus on May v Corbyn as the next PM.

It will mean this is a difficult to election to cover and the trivial will become the ‘story’ for the day because there is so little government policy to scrutinise. Now I may be wrong. I know there is pressure from within the Tory ranks to create a radical manifesto as they feel they are assured of a victory and would love the ‘mandate’ to carry this out. They are from the wing that allowed Cameron to win them an election but never bought into his Notting Hill set. If they do win then the Tories may well be playing a patient game. There is plenty of time still to announce policies once the manifesto is launched. We will see if there is shift in emphasis and pace. Somehow I doubt there will be.

I will write in more depth this week about why I will still be voting Labour despite all my misgivings about Corbyn and I will be out helping when I can good local Labour MPs defend their seats. I feel passionately that any Tory government elected on June the 8th would be a disaster and more so one with a large majority free to wreak havoc. We must stop them. Which is why I have fought so hard over the past 2 years to get us an electable leader so that we might be challenging them at this election – not 20 points behind. That battle has halted. We are where we are and I still want to see the Tories lose!

In the meantime Monday 1st May is 20 years since I was elected in 1997 – 10 years after I had fought my first council election in 1997. Some of us had plans to celebrate this with some events over the next month but these have all been postponed. So to celebrate there will be the 1997 election coverage on BBC on Monday and I will be posting  few thought about how we won, what went wrong, what went right and why we have drifted so far from potential power since 2010…

How Will This Play Out? No Predictions Yet.

I recall going into the 1997 and 2001 & 2005 elections as confident as you can be about winning given the polling and analysis of our constant voter contact work. Until the 2015 election I had been able to predict our local results within 500 votes at every election.

However, there was always the fear in the back of your mind that something out of your control nationally might go wrong during the election campaign and defeat could follow. In 1992, although a candidate in a non-winnable seat – I thought we were going to win too (nationally not locally!) . It seems in 1987 and 92 we (Labour) were judged to have the best ‘campaigns’ but still failed to get over the line on election day. In 1997 Major deliberately called a long campaign in the hope that ‘something’ would turn up or the lengthy spotlight on Blair would lead to another surprise victory or at least holding us to a small win.

This is why I have found the decision to hold a lengthy election period quite a gamble for May and the Tories. It will be a long 8 weeks if they want to their campaign to stay risk free. We saw yesterday how quickly a story can run. For a short time Labour’s position on a second referendum looked confused as different things had been said by McDonnell and Corbyn. Fortunately it was quickly shut down but the speed of social media adds an extra danger to modern day campaigns.

There will be many theories about why we lost in ’92 but the Major Soap Box was an interesting factor. Shunning the glitz of the ‘rally’ for meeting voters on a box in shopping centres. There will be a big contrast between the styles of May and Corbyn which is already evident over the first 48 hours. May is not comfortable thinking on her feet as we have seen at PMQs and other media performances. They won’t risk her out on the stump. Ironically however much people know I don’t rate Corbyn his strength does seem to be meeting like minded campaigners on the stump. It may not do enough to cause a major upset but I guess people will warm to him a little more as the campaign continues. I am not sure it will change their minds on his suitability to be the next PM but it may blunt some of the absolute media and Tory hostility that will pour down on him over the next few weeks.

Ok so if I am not going to predict the election 3 days into the campaign what will I cover? Well hopefully I want to cover a variety of aspects of the election and the key aspects of the campaign that you are interested in. . Clearly much of my experience is from being a Labour and Co-operative MP and campaigner in a marginal seat but there will be other aspects raised on twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn that I will try to cover here – so no question about policy, process, politics or personalities is too stupid. let me have them.

However, from the outset it seems for the sake of some of the Corbynistas I have to make it clear I will be voting Labour and will be doing what I can in my limited way these days to help secure victory for as many Labour MP’s as possible. I only mention this because I posted a simple question on Facebook to ask my non-political friends what they thought about the 10 Pledges announced by Corybn this week. It seemed a harmless question because I constantly hear how popular the policies are – but not Corbyn the politician. I want to cover why this disconnect happens and asked friends what can be done to win them round. I did have some concerns about some of the language being used in the pledges but this will form the basis of a separate blog. Yet once again they pile in with their abuse and name calling. Many non political friends on Facebook often privately message me or stop me and talk to me in the street for fear of posting replies on Facebook because of them! I don’t think they realise what damage they do to the Party in so many ways.

10 pledges

I fully understand that during an election where I want to help secure as many Labour MPs as possible I will try to be measured in my comments about Corbyn and the Labour campaign. I can’t hide my views about Corbyn and his leadership. I have spent the last couple of years hoping he would be gone before we got to a General Election but here we are. So quite rightly It is my duty to support the Party and candidates.  I will also make sure I post and blog lots more about the awful state of the country the Tories are creating and exposing the mess of BREXIT. But I can’t be silenced to stop making sensible comments however hard they try.

But despite the opinion polls showing a large win for May is inevitable I am not so convinced. When you look at the seats that the Tories have to win  there are too many in the ‘too difficult box’ for me to predict a comfortable win for the Tories. Privately Labour MPs have admitted the fear of losing 60-100 seats. The reason it is so hard to call is the uniform swing doesn’t take into account the decline of UKIP and their boost for the Tories or the decline on the prospect for Labour in northern seats where they came 2nd in 2015. The other big unknown at this stage is the performance of the Lib Dems.  Their strong anti Brexit stance will pick up votes – but enough in the right parts of the country to actually win many seats?

So taking this all into account I am not going to be making any specific predictions until we are well into our stride during the campaign. However, we do have to be honest about the impossible task of Labour actually winning the general Election. In order to have a majority of just 1 it needs to win about 106 seats. When you look down that list Loughborough is now about the 97th seat we need to win with a 9k plus majority. I have not heard a single Corbynista/ Momentum member locally explain with any evidence how they think that size of majority will be overturned. If we can’t win seats like Loughborough we are not going to win the election.

It seems we are into the realm of hoping there is another surprise. They do happen. ‘Jennifer’s ear’ John Presott punch and the Gordon Brown bigot comment  all could or did derail campaigns. This is why ‘campaigns’ have generally become so safe. The no risk strategy for the candidates is boring for us all. But you can see why nothing risky will be tried for the next few week by the Tories. They have everything to lose and expectations are high. Safety first seems to be the formula for the Tories. As it election day looms and the polls have not shifted I wonder what risks Labour will be willing to take.

It will be an interesting few weeks ahead. 

So far the best detailed analysis I have seen about the seats that Labour will need to defend is here from the Fabians – showing why it is all a bit more complicated than the usual swing. Andrew Harrop argues Labour has 6 different campaigns to figh 

http://www.fabians.org.uk/labours-six-battle-grounds/

Finally. I know at every election we claim the future of the country is at stake. But I genuinely feel it is particularly true this time around with the rise of populism across the globe and our own BREXIT issues. I fear any half decent mandate for the BREXIT Tories who have embraced many UKIP policies is a country I don’t recognise or want to live in. It has been bad enough already for the last 7 years. Another years of a right wing Tory administration makes me fear for the future of my children. It is a fight for the future direction of the country. Perhaps that’s why I get so animated about the current state of the Labour party in the polls under Corbyn. Because a strong credible Labour Party has never been so needed by the country & for that I make no apologies. Political anger is quite normal and healthy!

 

 

For decent polling analysis during the election it is really worth following Matt Singh. I declare an interest having watched Matt grow up and a family friend. But I would be recommending this anyway.

Over the coming 7 weeks I will try to post the odd lengthy blogs in response to the questions I am asked on social media by friends and followers. Of course my main area of expertise is the Labour Party and it’s performance having fought 5 general elections. However, as a campaigner and election nerd I have always been interested in messaging, tactics, manifesto claims and general political operations.

Normally there is a long run up to the election so messaging is already clear. If you look back at 2015 the campaign had been pretty much been running for 2 years on the same basis for Lab & Tories. The major shift during the election was the prospect of the SNP & Labour working together which gave the Tories another angle. This time the battle lines seem drawn and the SNP card has been played already.

As this is an iPhone blog I will keep it short. But please do ask any questions you want answering over the next 7 weeks. All sensible ones will be answered…

https://t.co/H7eoIpVsnV?ssr=true

No I won’t be Running

23256 -  1 Andy Reed MP

Although I have no intention of running in any election I am quite flattered that people still ask if I will do it!

I think anybody who knows me understands why I would not be running for a marginal seat under Jeremy Corbyn at this stage in my life.

I was honoured to have fought the Loughborough seat from 1992-2010 – representing the area for 13 years in Parliament. I did the job to the best of my ability and when I lost in 2010 I said it was time to move on. I don’t see any reason to change that view at this stage.

I will give my support to any Labour successor as I did to Mathew in 2015.

Thank you to all the kind words from across social media. I will enjoy writing about an election from the side again in 2017!