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 Is Labour ready to appeal unashamedly to England?

    Is Labour ready to appeal unashamedly to England?

    Is Labour ready to appeal unashamedly to England? Whilst many party members feel (as I do) more British than English, that actually makes it more important to answer the question. Because whilst the Labour Party has in the past decade been more than comfortable in speaking directly to Scotland (something which is obviously in focus at the moment) and Wales (somewhere that is obviously under fire from the Tories at the moment), the same can’t be said about England. Sure, we’ve […]

    Read more →
  • News Why are the Lib Dems so shy?

    Why are the Lib Dems so shy?

    Regular readers will know that we’re always keeping an eye on Lib Dems leaflets. Their local propaganda sheets are always good for a questionable bar chart, or forgetting the name of the generic place their text is for – but they can also be quite shy about their party affiliation too. For example, take the “Islington Chronicle”. Sounds like a local paper, and there’s no Lib Dem logo and barely a splash of their trademark yellow. But it is, in […]

    Read more →
  • News Scotland Seats and Selections Have the Tories given up on Scotland?

    Have the Tories given up on Scotland?

    This morning we noted that the Tories haven’t selected candidates in nearly half of the most marginal Labour and Lib Dem seats. But what’s particularly telling is that in over 60% of target seats in the Midlands and the North they have so far failed to select a candidate, while the Independent claims that in Scotland there are no Tory parliamentary candidates at all. However, Mark Wallace over at ConHome notes that the Tories have in fact selected a total of two […]

    Read more →
  • News Labour go on UKIP offensive

    Labour go on UKIP offensive

    Labour have gone on the attack against UKIP, following the launch of their European election campaign over the weekend. Releasing a statement from Jon Ashworth, the Shadow Cabinet Office Minister, the response focusses on how right-wing UKIP are - suggesting this change of tack is to designed to put Labour supporters off switching their vote to Farage’s party. Ashworth said: “UKIP would have us believe they stand for working people but the truth is very different – they’re even more right […]

    Read more →
  • News Seats and Selections Tories yet to select candidates in nearly half of marginals

    Tories yet to select candidates in nearly half of marginals

    Out of the 75 most marginal Labour and Lib Dem held seats, the Conservatives have selected only 41 candidates for the next election, according to the Independent. Labour, on the other hand, have selected candidates in all but two of their top 50 target seats: With only a year to go until the general election, this shortage seems to suggest the Tories are not expecting to gain many seats. By this stage in a parliament, a party hoping to make […]

    Read more →