We can be quietly satisfied that we took big steps on the road to victory in 2015

3rd May, 2013 9:36 pm

After a week long road trip through the shires of England, thousands of road and rail miles tramped, has it been worth it?

Have the sleepless nights and long days of the short campaign, inLabour’s most difficult set of elections in the cycle, repaid the worry?

Some said that with 80% of the areas holding elections represented by Conservative MPs, Labour should conserve it’s energy.

Yet those members up and down the country who worked tirelessly know different. We had to reconnect with the people who chose to leave us in the 2010 and 2005 general elections.


Let’s be honest, we were never going to take control of many of the County Councils holding elections. So step forward Robin Stuchbury – the first Labour councillor elected in Buckinghamshire since 2005. I’ve never met you Robin but I could have kissed you this afternoon.

And well done Laura Price, newly elected Labour councillor for Witney Central – at the heart of the Prime Minister’s constituency. You and your team worked hard and gave cheer to Labour members up and down the country.

And I’m sure our newly elected Labour administrations in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire would not mind me saying that we had one more important goal this year.

We needed to make progress in the battleground seats on which general election victory depends.

And the following seats would, indeed, be Labour tonight had there been a general election yesterday:Cannock, Loughborough, Crawley, Harlow, Stevenage, Hastings, Amber Valley, Lincoln, Cambridge, Lancaster, two in Norwich, and many others. Seat by seat, we’re winning it back.

There are things we did in this election that are of no interest to the pundits in London, but matter to us.

Our organisation matters. The engine of this campaign purred in a way it hasn’t for a while. We picked our target divisions and worked hard for many months, listening to voters and addressing their local and national concerns. Shadow cabinet members focused their activities in our target areas.

Our new members – many of them energised by Arnie Graf’s inspiring training – were welcomed into the party and took their first steps withLabour clipboards down the garden paths of England and Wales.

And many of our parliamentary candidates were leading from the front. Clive and Jessica in Norwich worked tirelessly with party members and candidates. When she wasn’t running through assault courses for local charities, Sarah in Hastings challenged Tory MP Amber Rudd’s insulting comments about the constituency she is supposed to represent. And Tory MP, Aidan Burley, may deduce from the 11% swing to Labour inCannock that his constituents don’t care for his Nazi stag party antics. 

Is this campaigning worth it? Ask Alexis McEvoy, former Tory Councillor in Hampshire, who said today: ‘I hope the government will listen because they never do; they’re arrogant, out of touch.’ Out of touch. Have you heard that slogan before?

Our ground campaign matters. It was a pleasure to witness the work of our dedicated team of organisers paying dividends.

And wasn’t it great to see Emma win in South Shields – our fifth female by-election winner this parliament. Fiona Stanton and Julie Eliot who ran our campaign deserve a serious pat on the back – to hold over 50% of votes cast and see the Lib Dems “obliterated” was heartwarming.

And to see two new women Labour Mayors, Ros Jones in Doncaster and Norma Redfearn in North Tyneside, was a joy  – particularly as I know local party members in both areas worked their socks off.

We passed our target of 200 Labour gains at about 3.45pm today.  Yet we know there’s more to do. You only have to see the grin on Nigel Farage’s face to understand this. Despite his party appearing to succeed significantly better in traditional Conservative areas than in Labour ones, we cannot afford to be complacent.

As Ed said earlier today, our task is to win the trust of the people we haven’t yet persuaded that Labourcan make the difference.  

I know you are up for this task. And since last May’s elections, we now have over 1100 more councillors on the team. Our base is getting stronger and stronger. Despite UKIP being the main focus of media attention today, we can be quietly satisfied that we took big steps on the road to victory in 2015. 

Was it worth it? You tell me.

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  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    It is certainly a positive message for Labour, in that it is a rejection of the tory national government, but it is only a positive message by inference, and not proof.

    There were no notional changes to be made today, even if there had been over-whelming support for any party. County councils do not really matter, as they sort out the bins and little else. They do not set the rate of JSA or HB limits, or have the power to affect strategic decisions that should be made, on tax rates for new businesses in deprived areas. It is only because the county council elections are so completely unimportant that I was able to happily vote for a Green on a distinctly local agenda, and know that even before I voted, she would not win.

    The routine “Lab 40% Con 30%” polling for the last year seems to have been more than slightly dented. The one thing Labour should really do is not to assume national polling = votes in a ballot box.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    It is certainly a positive message for Labour, in that it is a rejection of the tory national government, but it is only a positive message by inference, and not proof.

    There were no notional changes to be made today, even if there had been over-whelming support for any party. County councils do not really matter, as they sort out the bins and little else. They do not set the rate of JSA or HB limits, or have the power to affect strategic decisions that should be made, on tax rates for new businesses in deprived areas. It is only because the county council elections are so completely unimportant that I was able to happily vote for a Green on a distinctly local agenda, and know that even before I voted, she would not win.

    The routine “Lab 40% Con 30%” polling for the last year seems to have been more than slightly dented. The one thing Labour should really do is not to assume national polling = votes in a ballot box.

    • Good points. The national share of the vote was 29 per cent, with nutty Ukip on 25 per cent. I’m a bit concerned myself.

      • The problem with that extrapolation is that it suggests the metropolitans will behave in the same way as the shires . I’m not convinced as I think we are far more embedded in the mets. These results are a bit patchy but reasonably well targeted. Even those predictions suggested we would get a small majority. The first past the post system may well lead to some very strange results next time.

        • rekrab

          Mike, it pretty much looks like the next GE wont see any one party win on a landslide, it looks as though the right has been split and only the labour party could emerge with a majority government in 2015. (depending on Independence referendum)

          • This Is something I have believed for a while. Public opinion and voting intention is just too fractured to lead to any other outcome. It is no good pretending that any party can clean up a load of votes by just slightly shifting their stance – they would only exchange them fir another batch they have newly offended.

          • This Is something I have believed for a while. Public opinion and voting intention is just too fractured to lead to any other outcome. It is no good pretending that any party can clean up a load of votes by just slightly shifting their stance – they would only exchange them fir another batch they have newly offended.

          • Farage is canny operator and Cameron will not want to consign himself to oblivion if another option is available. The Right may yet arrive at an accommodation. To save embarrassment it could easily be presented as ‘in the national interest’ etc. and, following Ed’s clanger (in my view) re the referendum, they would present Labour as untrustworthy on the EU.

            And, importantly, Murdoch (who yesterday withheld support from the Tories) will be very pleased.

          • rekrab

            Yes, there is certainly the chance that Cameron will move to accommodate UKIP and many of his MP’s would rather be in coalition with UKIP and it will almost certainly centre around the EU argument.
            And of course it does all depend on what type of labour party movement we have?

          • Farage is canny operator and Cameron will not want to consign himself to oblivion if another option is available. The Right may yet arrive at an accommodation. To save embarrassment it could easily be presented as ‘in the national interest’ etc. and, following Ed’s clanger (in my view) re the referendum, they would present Labour as untrustworthy on the EU.

            And, importantly, Murdoch (who yesterday withheld support from the Tories) will be very pleased.

        • You are quite right I think. One thing that was very telling is that UKIP won no seats in Durham, Northumberland, Lancashire, Cumbria, Warwickshire or Derbyshire. They also lost their only councillor in Nottinghamshire to Labour. Their breakthrough, whilst historic, was nowhere near as widespread as it was hyped up to be.

      • aracataca

        UKIP 23% NOT 25% + it’s the shire counties. What about the cities? How will they vote?

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    It is certainly a positive message for Labour, in that it is a rejection of the tory national government, but it is only a positive message by inference, and not proof.

    There were no notional changes to be made today, even if there had been over-whelming support for any party. County councils do not really matter, as they sort out the bins and little else. They do not set the rate of JSA or HB limits, or have the power to affect strategic decisions that should be made, on tax rates for new businesses in deprived areas. It is only because the county council elections are so completely unimportant that I was able to happily vote for a Green on a distinctly local agenda, and know that even before I voted, she would not win.

    The routine “Lab 40% Con 30%” polling for the last year seems to have been more than slightly dented. The one thing Labour should really do is not to assume national polling = votes in a ballot box.

  • SueE

    absolutely worth it, Ed is now on the way to forming a Labour Government in 2015 – I was so proud today the way all councillors, activists and MPs behaved when interviewed today – neither crowing when winning or complacent or scared when media were righting us off (again), just quietly confident in the job being done.

  • rekrab

    Was it worth it? I’d say so, if politics is a game of different ideas and opposition,I’d say the away team strolled into the home teams back yard and left them with a load of heavy bruises.Clearly labour can win an overall GE election win however Sept 2014 has still to come?

    • what’s happening September 2014?

      • rekrab

        Scottish Independence referendum, I think if labour does win it will be tight so Scotland and Scottish labour MP’s would be very welcomed to that cause however if Independence is won I think although I’m not totally sure? Scottish MP’s wouldn’t run for any GE to Westminster 2015.

  • I am in no doubt that we have done well but I think 29% was too low. We recovered our losses from 2009, but we should have regained Staffordshire. We need to start thinking about the outer winnable seats within that 106 seat target to get a solid majority, which is what the ‘Campaign for a Labour Majority’ is all about.

  • Grouchy Oldgit

    Labour should not be satisfied with this but horrified. The BBC PNS is 29%, same as the 2010 debacle. Very very worrying that not even 1% progress given 3 years of prolonged economic hardship and a government that doesn’t seem to have a clue how to improve matters. People obviously do not believe Labour would be any better than the current shower. UKIP is benefiting by blaming it on immigrants, Labour needs to let people know the real culprits for the recession – bankers. And to hold up its hands and take collective responsibility, along with rest of the world, for not sufficiently questioning what the bankers were doing to be returning such high profits (= tax revenues) during the early 00’s. Ask most people how Miliband would differ from cameron and they wouldn’t have a clue apart maybe from cut slightly less severely.

  • David Llewellyn Gardner

    While Hastings, Weymouth, Gravesham and Stevenage results gave some hope; these are not yet typical mid term elections for the Opposition. Look at Basildon, Yarmouth, Dartford, Thanet South, Dover, Sittingbourne, Gloucester, Warwick and other seats we held onto in 2005 but lost in 2010 and the picture is not so rosy. And in those areas we never broke through in 1997 and 2001, Labour generally continues to languish often in single figures. At least this time, we seem to have a full team of candidates, but we rarely fight on local issues and still need a more positive vision and narrative to reinforce this nationally. These are obviously our most challenging set of elections, but we have to show we are a really national party and we have climbed another step up the ladder – and have a few rungs to go.

  • Daniel Speight

    What satisfaction you may find Tom is more like fools’ gold. The real story is that Labour got hardly any of the anti-coalition protest vote. That’s because the protest wasn’t only against the coalition, it was also an anti-political class vote and Labour is seen as being very much part of that political class.

    It doesn’t need me to point out a problem that Ed Miliband himself talks of. It’s the makeup of the Parliamentary Labour Party. It’s too middle class, too spaddy, too Oxbridge PPE. Of course the expenses cheats didn’t help, and to still have them in the PLP is bad news, but it’s this sense of the PLP not being like us that is the biggest problem.

    When that nasty little man Starky attacks Harman for her aristocratic background and helping middle class women progress in the party, her Sally-Anne like defense of helping working class women by legislation just doesn’t seem to work. But the truth is we could put 90% of the PLP on QT and we could say the same thing.

    We know the problem, but it’s hard to see the fix. It would need a big makeover of the PLP. I can’t see its members volunteering to be replaced by those outside of the PLP’s present class. Would the Eagle sisters for example take a step backward and let someone else run in their seats? Unlikely isn’t it.

    So that leaves the party with just one way out. It would need to show the public that Labour really is different from the other parties, and that would need radical policies. How about it Tom do you see another way, or are we just going to hope that the Tories lose 2015 by themselves or that UKIP will split the vote. In football to sit back on a one or two goal lead is often fatal.

  • Daniel Speight

    What satisfaction you may find Tom is more like fools’ gold. The real story is that Labour got hardly any of the anti-coalition protest vote. That’s because the protest wasn’t only against the coalition, it was also an anti-political class vote and Labour is seen as being very much part of that political class.

    It doesn’t need me to point out a problem that Ed Miliband himself talks of. It’s the makeup of the Parliamentary Labour Party. It’s too middle class, too spaddy, too Oxbridge PPE. Of course the expenses cheats didn’t help, and to still have them in the PLP is bad news, but it’s this sense of the PLP not being like us that is the biggest problem.

    When that nasty little man Starky attacks Harman for her aristocratic background and helping middle class women progress in the party, her Sally-Anne like defense of helping working class women by legislation just doesn’t seem to work. But the truth is we could put 90% of the PLP on QT and we could say the same thing.

    We know the problem, but it’s hard to see the fix. It would need a big makeover of the PLP. I can’t see its members volunteering to be replaced by those outside of the PLP’s present class. Would the Eagle sisters for example take a step backward and let someone else run in their seats? Unlikely isn’t it.

    So that leaves the party with just one way out. It would need to show the public that Labour really is different from the other parties, and that would need radical policies. How about it Tom do you see another way, or are we just going to hope that the Tories lose 2015 by themselves or that UKIP will split the vote. In football to sit back on a one or two goal lead is often fatal.

    • I’ve been mulling over the support Blair’s ‘don’t protest’ advice appears to be receiving within the PLP.

      With the obvious exception of Ed (who all too often stands alone), the heavily Blairite shadow cabinet seem unable to present anything other than instantly forgettable undergraduate abstractions. Five minutes after Chuka Umunna performed on Newsnight last night we couldn’t remember a single point he’d made.

      The impression produced by Chuka’s well-meaning waffle lasted no longer than the time it took him to finish a sentence. And Chuka is one of the more able front-benchers!

      Meanwhile, unhindered by Blair’s advice, UKIP are free to protest for all they’re worth, often incoherently, and rake in the votes along with as much anti-coalition enthusiasm as they can handle.

      It has to be repeated, shadow cabinet: not fit for purpose.

      • $6215628

        and you recall what Ed say’s in speeches ,apart from his performance, on Radio4

    • But the Eagle sisters are hardly from a privileged background. They both happen to be very clever and won scholarships from their state schools to Oxbridge. Their father was a Labour activist.. I agree with the Spad /London issue but it’s not surprising that people from ordinary families who benefited from the expansion of HE which Labour made possible become Labour MPs . What about the very good now South Shields .MP? Definitely a local but she has an MA from universities in the NE.

      • Daniel Speight

        OK Mike, you tell me why there’s such a disconnect between our citizens and the political class. I’m sure the Eagle girls are very nice, and I’m sure Harman is a good woman in her own way, but it’s not working, and I don’t just mean female PLP members. It’s across the board almost.

        • I think it’s partially because the electoral system encourages the parties to be more like each other. And I think it’s because expectations are very high but no one has easy answers. If you changed the selection of MPs I am not convinced that in itself would change anything

          • Daniel Speight

            Changing the make up of the PLP would be a good start Mike. Otherwise, or also, as I said above having radical ideas far different from the current economic consensus between the parties would help.

            For there is a consensus until one of the parties is prepared to break it. Maybe it will be the Tories breaking it on the EU. It should be Labour returning to social democracy which it lost with Blair and Brown.

  • Here is my analysis (as local party agent and friend of Robin’s) of why Buckingham elected Labour Councillor Stuchbury on Thursday

    http://ajustfuture.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/election-turnout-is-dropping-like-stone.html

  • Here is my analysis (as local party agent and friend of Robin’s) of why Buckingham elected Labour Councillor Stuchbury on Thursday

    http://ajustfuture.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/election-turnout-is-dropping-like-stone.html

  • leslie48

    The FT Editorial ” Cold comfort for Labour” claims it should have picked up more votes from the resentment on the Coalition, that its been too relaxed on UKIp and that it’s still confined to its traditional areas and that Ed has not been bold enough on the alternatives. One thing is for sure we have to nail on the head the idea that leaving our other 27 trading European parties will not create new jobs and indeed may destroy them. That the unemployment, inequality, unfairness and economic problems of the UK can be dissolved by just moving away from our foreign friends. Too many voters have swallowed very right wing propaganda & we have to re-group quickly and dispel their lies and myths.

  • Andy Harvey

    I think these results were ‘on par’ with expectations. Not spectacular but very acceptable. The UKIP threat is still largely unknown, but should be treated with the same vigour as we tackled the BNP. There is an urgent need for some real qualitative research into the hopes, aspirations, anxieties and fears of the huge numbers who are not voting so that we can develop policy, based on a new economic and social settlement that makes a decisive break from neo-liberlaism. We need to be able to couch that new settlement, whose contours are still largely unknown, in the lived reality of ordinary people’s lives. We need to win the intellectual argument for a new economics and new social order but translate that into words that speak as much to the heart as they do to the head.

  • NT86

    No one should write off the Ukip surge. While their success overwhelmingly hurt the Tories and took a number of councils to NOC, let’s not underestimate what they can do in Labour and Lib Dem targets/hotspots. In Kent, we made some decent gains, but Ukip gained a lot of ground in Swale and Thanet. They also performed well in Great Yarmouth in Norfolk. They even took seats in the Lib Dem fortresses of Eastleigh and Yeovill.

    What Labour can certainly take away from this election is that they’ve made in-roads in the places that matter in election terms. Now they have a presence on borough/district councils and the county councils in parts of the south and the Midlands. Of course Derbyshire and Notts were pleasing. Only downers were the near misses in Lancs and Staffs. But I think taking Warwickshire to NOC and having only 4 seats less than the Tories was very good.

  • NT86

    No one should write off the Ukip surge. While their success overwhelmingly hurt the Tories and took a number of councils to NOC, let’s not underestimate what they can do in Labour and Lib Dem targets/hotspots. In Kent, we made some decent gains, but Ukip gained a lot of ground in Swale and Thanet. They also performed well in Great Yarmouth in Norfolk. They even took seats in the Lib Dem fortresses of Eastleigh and Yeovill.

    What Labour can certainly take away from this election is that they’ve made in-roads in the places that matter in election terms. Now they have a presence on borough/district councils and the county councils in parts of the south and the Midlands. Of course Derbyshire and Notts were pleasing. Only downers were the near misses in Lancs and Staffs. But I think taking Warwickshire to NOC and having only 4 seats less than the Tories was very good.

    • Of those seats its only Yarmouth and Thanet South where we might win….

  • Alan Ji

    Our leading lights are right not to be rude to UKIP voters. However, lets be clear, if you draw a line from the Solent to the Humber, almost all UKIP gains are east of it. THey didn’t do well in the north or the urban midlands. They also didn’t do well in the west or south west; maybe they have already peaked there?

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    There is a good argument made today in the Times newspaper (by Matthew Parris) that the UKIP should be seen in the same mould as the SDP. He argues that, like the SDP, the UKIP will ultimately fail under their own name, but be successful in changing a major party of British politics. So – his argument is – the SDP forced Labour to change, and ultimately delivered 13 years of New Labour. Likewise, the UKIP will force the tories to change, with the implication that some form of “new tories” will emerge as the owners of a very popular political position that will win elections.

    Of course, he may be wrong in his assessment, but it is well argued, and the logic makes some sense. The results of the last elections show us that there are at least 23% of the electorate positively interested in the UKIP, and if you add to that those 25% also voting tory (and at a stretch, those Lib Dems who despite the last 3 years also still support the general tory-Lib Dem coalition), then there is around or above 50% of the electorate who do support a small-government, economically conservative, “Britain above all” agenda, and the debate then shifts to the liberal / authoritarian axis, with broad agreement on the economy providing no real difficulties.

    • But there are major differences between UKIP and the Tories on economics. Forget the libertarian claim. I am sure the vast majority of Ukip sympathizers would be protectionist all the way.

      • This is true. What struck me greatly was David Starkey on QT. He was making a case for protectionism whilst endorsing UKIP. What he didn’t seem to comprehend was that UKIP is a massive contradiction – they are trying to reconcile Enoch Powell with Murray Rothbard, and it just won’t work. It’s completely incoherent.

  • Amber_Star

    Our ground campaign matters. It was a pleasure to witness the work of our dedicated team of organisers paying dividends.
    —————-
    Absolutely – & let’s be honest, it’s all we’ve got. The mainstream media are determined to ignore Labour & understate our achievements. So let’s show we can win it without them, if that’s what we have to do!

    • Redshift1

      UKIP did less well where we had a strong ground-game – simple as!

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  • Aged P

    I feel nothing but despair. I have followed politics for more years than I care to remember; I was brought up in a Labour household and have voted nothing but Labour but nothing has changed – the internal bickering and points of order that my parents reported after every local Labour Party meeting, which put me off joining, seem still to rule. I did join the party as a protest against the coalition but soon found myself wondering whether I wanted to be a member of an organisation which booed the name of Tony Blair at Conference and wanted to expunge every memory of one of the most successful post-war governments. A party whose leaders seem to be more inclined to accept the blame for the financial crash of 2007. The final straw was Ed Miliband telling us that public sector workers should accept pay cuts or lose their jobs so I left because that was exactly what Cameron was saying! And you called Tony Blair a Tory.

    Not far now to the general election, so what is Ed’s policy, vote for me because I’m not Dave? It isn’t enough. With a government like ours, Labour should have romped home.

    They say that as you grow older you mellow: Not true in my case, my rage bubbles over even more. So, Ed, please be a Labour politician, stop looking over your shoulder at focus groups and do the job you are paid to do – be the leader of the opposition and oppose or let someone else have a bash.

  • Charlie_Mansell

    In the 80’s and early 90’s the Saturday and Sunday papers published lists of the results in key parliamentary seats. None of them have done that this time. Since we seem to have done pretty well in those targets, perhaps Tom or Labour List could publish a list with the percentages and the shift in vote compared to 2009 and 2010. It would be good for a meaningful debate and a measure of Labour’s campaign strategy

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