The first national One Nation election is coming this year – are you ready?

February 12, 2013 10:54 am

While politicos focus on Eastleigh, possibly the first One nation by-election, we shouldn’t forget that the English County Council elections are due on May 2nd THIS year, and they will surely be the first national One Nation election for many years.

They are the first electoral opportunity for the public across England to express a view on Labour’s One Nation idea, and the next step in Ed Miliband’s journey to Downing Street.

A good campaign for the counties is an important step – it offers a test of our reach across England and of our ability to craft a story that resonates with those living in the coastal and countryside parts of the country, as much as with our urban heartlands.

And it is an essential step given our poor performance in the equivalent elections in 2009 when Labour councillors were worse than halved to just under 300, and when our four remaining county councils were lost. The only county Labour defends is the Durham unitary authority, while the Conservatives run all the shires except Cumbria. While there may only be one way – Up, rather than Essex – how far Labour can spread into the shires is a key test.

So an opportunity is emerging, one that reinforces our electoral journey, shows we have reach across the country and that can give us more control of greater swathes of local government.  Although the number of elected positions in counties is smaller than that for district councils, they are responsible for spending much more public money and delivering many more services.  In several we may well win control, including Derbyshire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire and Warwickshire, while in others we can gain influence and representation in areas from which Labour disappeared while we were in government nationally. From 1993 until 2005, it is worth recalling, Labour was the largest single party on Suffolk County Council. Of the 106 seats in Labour’s target list, 38 seats (plus parts of six more) have county council elections in May 2013 including key targets like Amber Valley, Gloucester, Norwich North and Pendle.

Taking the opportunity means having some policy that means something to those who live in country and coastal areas, having a local presence and having the support of the wider party. Members based in cities and major towns across England may already have some connection with the CLPs just across the administrative county boundary. But there is much more that could be done to support colleagues who are fighting these important and difficult elections. People in Coventry, for instance, are nearly surrounded by Warwickshire and activity in Nuneaton, Rugby, Warwick and Leamington could help install a Labour administration in county hall. Stoke-on-Trent, Derby and Nottingham are also surrounded by marginal counties, and the metropolitan areas of Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and the Black Country can also help Labour in counties such as Lancashire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire.

Many members in London may already be thinking ahead to the Borough elections of 2014 – in terms of momentum and reach these elections could be as important, so how to help out?  Well things might be a little more complicated, but by administrative fluke there are almost as many London Boroughs (33 including the City) as there are two tier and unitary county councils (34).  It isn’t too late in the day for London members, borough by borough, to be linked to a county of England for these elections; and even if that only means one or two trips during the short campaign every county would benefit from the people power; and of course the mix of members from the big cities and town, coastal and rural areas would be good for all concerned.  Members from the counties around London have already pulled together to help London Labour in the 2012 elections.

Over time such ‘twinning’ would also help our policy making process too; helping ensure that policies do more than reflect just the circumstances of more densely urban areas.  In the short term our policy makers and our Shadow Cabinet members should try and reflect a message and policies for these elections that reflect the needs of people living in less dense areas, where connectivity (by car, bus, broadband and rail) is much more important in day-to-day living, where time is more precious as everything takes longer to do, and where choices are often limited. Sometimes there is no choice, in care, education or other services (public and privately supplied).

Let us make the connections within the party that help deliver for this One Nation election.

Lewis Baston is a Senior Research Fellow at Democratic Audit. Hywel lloyd is a founder member of Labour Coast and Country

  • DB13

    Surely ‘One Nation’ has to actually mean something for people to judge it… everytime someone uses ‘One Nation’ to describe something, the term loses a bit more meaning.

  • DB13

    The problem Labour seem to have is that they seem to think you can stick the term ‘One Nation’ in front of something and it suddenly has a meaning. Yet so much of what is apparently ‘One Nation’ is contradictory. People will not be fooled by this.

    Everytime this happens the term loses a bit more of the little meaning it already had.

Latest

  • Featured Diane Abbott expected to announce she will run to be London Mayor

    Diane Abbott expected to announce she will run to be London Mayor

    It’s rumoured that tomorrow at London Labour party conference Diane Abbott, the MP for Hackney and Stoke Newington, will announce that she will run to be Labour’s candidate for Mayor of London. Abbott  was Shadow Minister for Public Health until last year and has been the Labour MP for the north east London constituency for twenty seven years – where she doubled her majority in 2010. Prior to becoming an MP she was elected to Westminster City Council in 1982. […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Government is broken – Labour need to use the digital revolution

    Government is broken – Labour need to use the digital revolution

    People are shut out of government and they know it. Government is broken. The British state is not fit for purpose. They both need a radical re-design. I’ve been running Labour’s policy review and we asked two fundamental questions. What do we want government to do? And what role can digital technology play in creating a government that will better serve our country? The answers were pretty simple. We need a new way of governing our country that gives British […]

    Read more →
  • News It’s “unbelieveable” Cameron has recommended Lansley for top UN job, say Labour

    It’s “unbelieveable” Cameron has recommended Lansley for top UN job, say Labour

    It’s rumoured that David Cameron has recommended former health secretary Andrew Lansley for a senior position in the UN. When health secretary – before he was replaced by Jeremy Hunt in 2012 – it was Lansley who oversaw the Government’s extremely controversial Health and Social Care Act 2012. He then became Leader of the House of Commons before being replaced by William Hague, meaning Lansley is no longer in the cabinet. He also announced that he would be standing down […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Politics after the Big Machine

    Politics after the Big Machine

    Jawarharlal Nehru, first Prime Minister of independent India was giving a speech in a bus factory. Nehru’s topic was ‘the place of the big machine’. It was 1955, the era of big industrial projects and the centralised state. Perhaps, his audience expected Nehru to celebrate massive mechanisation, to praise the beauty of the gigantic, but it was Gandhi’s birthday, and Gandhi’s argument had always that politics had start with the local and the individual. ‘Perhaps’, Nehru said, ‘the biggest scheme […]

    Read more →
  • Comment My bill to make work pay in Low Wage Britain

    My bill to make work pay in Low Wage Britain

    Today I will be speaking in Parliament on behalf of a woman called Catherine. She lives nearly 200 miles away, far from the Westminster bubble, and she doesn’t have time to take notice of polls or political pundits. But what happens in our politics and the type of government we choose in six months’ time will shape her life more than most. When my name was drawn out of a hat earlier this year, giving me the chance to introduce a […]

    Read more →