Labour suffered some big defeats last week, but in one small corner of Southwark, South London, we won a massive victory.
In a by-election in The Lane ward in Peckham, I was elected to become councillor with a 2000+ majority and a 12.5% swing from the Lib Dems, who were pushed from second to third place behind the Greens.
At a time when Britons are supposed to be disillusioned with politics, we secured 64% of the vote on a 40% turnout.
As the only local election in London, the figures bode well for elections in 2012 and beyond.
If the swing was replicated across the rest of Southwark, Labour would control 60 of the 63 seats on the council. One more thing to keep Simon Hughes awake at night.
So how did we do it?
The first credit has to go to the local party. Despite having to make huge cuts in power, we are pursuing a positive agenda that sets us apart from national government.
Whilst the coalition in Westminster is scrapping EMA, a few miles down the road we’re introducing free school meals for every primary school child and a replacement grant for the poorest kids attending our schools.
Whilst they’re scrapping the Future Jobs Fund and Connexions services, we’re introducing new apprenticeships, doubling the recycling rate, halving the cost of meals on wheels and fulfilling our manifesto pledge to make every council home warm, safe and dry.
Yes there are cuts to make, but we’ve done our best to make difficult decisions in an honest, open way in consultation with residents. We’ve also provided transition grants to cushion the impact on our excellent charities. People get that times are difficult, but they also get we are doing our best by them.
The campaign also had a big part to play in the scale of the victory. We had a team that combined all the experience of veteran campaigners with the energy and excitement of people who had never been out door knocking before.
Yes we had efficient data collection, but we never reduced people to numbers.
I believe we benefitted by putting a lot of energy into meeting people face to face and building relationships. That tension we all face when we’re on the doorstep deciding whether to keep talking to one individual or move on, paid off by staying a little longer.
As a party we tend to see voters as individuals on a sheet, but they live as part of a community. Spend a bit longer talking to one, and they mention your campaign to their neighbours. A vouch from someone you trust is much stronger than an argument from a Labour campaigner you’ve seen once or twice.
I’m well aware I’m standing on the shoulders of giants – the campaigners who came out to help, and the record of my colleagues. It’s a hard majority to live up to, but I can’t wait to join them.
If it’s not too cheeky, I’d also like to use LL to thank the excellent Johanna Baxter who writes here, for giving up her home and many nights with contact creator; the two existing councillors in the ward Mark Glover and Nick Dolezal; Abdul Mohammed and Caroline for their excellent grub; my agent Rob Smeath; campaigns organiser Ali Craft; princess of the doorstep Ellie Cumbo; Sunny Hundal from Liberal Conspiracy -who actually turned out to be quite charming to lady voters – and all my friends who came out on the doorstep for the first time.