Members vs Money – serious questions about Labour’s election plan

3rd January, 2015 11:21 am

In an article for the Guardian today, Labour’s election Chair Douglas Alexander has predicted that the Tories will outspend Labour three times over in this year’s General Election. However, Alexander argues that:

“The Tories may be able to outspend us by as much as three to one, but on the ground, in the key seats, we aim to outnumber their diminished and demoralised activists by the same margin as we fight this election conversation by conversation.”

However, if the Labour leadership knows that they’ll be vastly outspent, and that the plan is to rely on volunteers, then some serious questions need to be asked about the party’s approach in recent years. On fundraising – how long have the party known that they weren’t raising enough? (I’m guessing years ago). If so, did no-one think about this when plans were drawn up that have reduced union financial support? And has Ed Miliband been doing everything possible to fundraise personally in recent years? (As Marcus Roberts and I noted he must).


And on doorknocking (again, as Roberts and I noted – it’s important but it can’t save us on its own) and relying on activists, the party’s strategy seems muddled. Undoubtedly putting the party’s superior volunteer base and ground game up against Tory millions is the right approach – after all, activism and volunteer time is worth money, and past experience shows that face to face contact with local volunteers is the most effective means of persuading people to vote Labour and then turning them out on election day. Although it’s interesting to see Alexander say that the election will be won “conversation by conversation” as the party’s strategy clearly favours quantity rather than quality of voter contact (i.e. – actively discourages lengthy doorstep conversations/voter persuasion).

However, if the party knew we’d be reliant on member mobilisation, then why did the leadership turn it’s back on Arnie Graf and the organising model he was using to increase capacity in key seats (and build trust with the electorate at the same time)? Why did the party not replace the Executive Director for members when he moved on? And does the party really believe that it currently has a plan for government that will enthuse activists enough to give up whole weeks of their time to campaign in key seats ahead of May? Is what we’re offering so far going to get actvisits leaping out of bed with excitement? I’m not so sure. So far our pledges have been about neutralising Tory attacks rather than firing up Labour supporters.

If the aim was to beat Tory money with passionate, dedicated and numerous activists, then the Labour leadership have gone about things in an…unconventional manner…

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  • Mandy Hall

    Hmm. I still think that the core of the Labour strategy is ‘vote for us as we’re not them’ except that the policies that are being proposed appear to be tinkering at the edges rather than exceptionally different. In essence adopting the traditional Lib Dem electoral strategy.

  • Doug Smith

    ” did no-one think about this when plans were drawn up that have reduced union financial support?”

    The ending of the link with the trade unions was an ideological move.

    As far as the swivel-eyed Blairite/Progress windbags are concerned, ideology will always trump practicality.

  • Monkey_Bach

    What is David Axelrod up to these days? What has he contributed so far? Eeek.

    • Doug Smith

      “What is David Axelrod up to”

      After the attempt at an Obama-like bacon sandwich photo-op he’s probably too embarrassed to show his face.

      • treborc1

        If you look back at Axelrod I suspect he told Miliband what was needed and Blair or Progress told Miliband to get rid of him, Axelrod is more of a socialist then Miliband will ever be.

        I may be wrong but I suspect Miliband was told to remove him, shut him up we all know a puppet when we see one.,

  • Stephen Rogers

    What has happened to Arnie Graf ? I am a Labour Party member, and realise that he was building bridges between Westminster politicians and grassroots Labour members, which had been apparently undermined by Tony’s elite. The Labour Party is a democratic Party or it is nothing.
    As a Labour Party member, I am asserting that we need Arnie Graf. If enough people agree, then could we start lobbying the hierarchy within the Party for this to happen?Please support me, any suggestions appreciated.

    • treborc1

      What are you talking about for god sake, he was brought in to work in the back ground for Miliband, I doubt he’s even a member of the labour party, his job is to give advice maybe help with the writing of speeches.

      If you think he would be doing much else the question then is what?

      Support you in what making him leader.

      • Stephen Rogers

        I think you should read the above article ,especially the pieces written in red.

        • BillFrancisOConnor

          Can he read?

          • treborc1

            Nope of course not Bill. I’m working class yokel

          • Stephen Rogers

            I wish the Labour Party would move forward & get rid of this ” working class ” obsession. I can’t see the connection between working class yokel and reading ! Let’s move into the 21st Century !

    • Doug Smith

      “lobbying the hierarchy”?

      You’re having a laugh.

      The elite are quite happy to slap down any conference votes they don’t like. What chance they’ll listen to an already silenced membership that wants to reverse a fait accompli?

      • Stephen Rogers

        Taking on the elite! The present hierarchy of the Labour Party might have forgotten that is why the Party was formed in the first place, to take on the elite. It does not mean that the membership have to follow. I’ll say it again, the Labour Party has to be democratic otherwise it stands for nothing worth while.

    • Dez

      Didn’t he have problems with a work permit?

  • paul barker

    “We aim to outnumber their … activists by the same margin.” Note those last 4 words. The Tories were claiming 150,000 members lasy year – does this mean Labour are claiming 3 times more than that, ie 450,000 ? Im surprised you arent boasting about you rise in membership.

    • BillFrancisOConnor

      Hey Tory boy learn to spell the word ‘your’! It’s done in year 3 of infant school. You might benefit from sitting in on a class with the seven year olds.

      • treborc1

        Nothing to say about the article so you attack the person, never changes Bill a New labour stooge .

        You would vote labour if Hitler was the leader, we have seen people like you before mate.

      • Michael Murray

        The trolls on here haven’t a clue what’s really going on on the ground, Bill. They are going to have a real shock come the general election.

        • CrunchieTime

          Is the author of this article also a troll? Mark seems quite critical and rightly so in my opinion. Not that you will care about the opinion of a troll…

    • Doug Smith

      Membership of the Scottish Labour Party is said to be as low as 7000 (the Party prefers not to provide the actual figure). Goodness knows how they’ll manage against the SNP’s 93,000+ members.

      One suspects Mr O’Connor is going to be very busy.

  • treborc1

    Labour to day is heading for the new labour land again is that correct or have I made an error, the fabled center ground sitting on the fence, New labour did until Bush came a calling and then the NHS sale, post office, the welfare reforms , all the rest labour has moved to the right it had gotten off the fence.

    Not a lot more to say really money is not what labour wants what it needed was a back bone what it got was a few spineless leadership who think winning is the most important thing.

    The NHS is safe with labour who the hell believes that today after Ball’s statement.

    Progress has won it is now back and New labour is alive and well Blair spoke the party answered.

    • Michael Murray

      What’s wrong with winning? What exactly are you saying? That we need a leadership with spine dedicated to losing? Really you are completely opposed to all of us in Labour, aren’t you? It’s not just New Labour. You want to see all of us in Labour lose.

  • Ejacques1938

    So Douglas Alexander’s thinks there are armies of Labour Party activists straining at the helm and waiting for his election call. In traditional red Scotland Labour Party membership and voters have been abandoning the party in droves and to a lesser extent the same is happening in many of Labour’s English heartlands. Wonder why?

    Could it be that more austerity, Blairite policies, social exclusion and growing inequality and another intake of self-serving Labour MP’s happy to play the system, change nothing before disappearing into the House of Lords and the welcoming arms of big business is just a teeny-weeny bit unappealing?

    Lewis Carroll about sums Alexander’s political spin:

    “The time has come,” the Walrus said,
    “To talk of many things:
    Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
    Of cabbages–and kings–
    And why the sea is boiling hot–
    And whether pigs have wings.”

  • Shouldn’t these questions be put to NEC representatives ? . Nobody is going to answer any of these questions and nobody is accountable. Labour List hasn’t even covered this: story which is amazing.

    • Doug Smith

      “nobody is accountable”

      That’s why there’s no point in joining/voting for the Labour Party.

      No matter what you or any of the members/voters think, once elected, Labour’s elite will do as they please.

      You’ll get a better deal from joining the One Direction fan club than you would from joining the Labour Party.

  • Daniel Speight

    While Mark worries about Arnie, a far worse sidelining has taken place. That is Jon Cruddas facing the dead hand of the Labour leadership. The limited offer strategy of Alexander and Progress has failed spectacularly in both Scotland and England because they thought they could treat the core vote as mushrooms, fed sh*t and kept in the dark. Cruddas should be released from his straightjacket and put in charge of election tactics immediately with Alexander demoted and Balls told to keep quite, unless there are some who don’t want to win anyway. Could they be waiting for the prince across the water to return?

    • Stephen Rogers

      I totally agree.

  • I think Mark is raising the issue that if we plan to fight a #doorstep campaign, we need people to knock on doors. Suddenly, the Leadership have discovered that a programme they think can win the “middle ground” won’t or might not motivate the activists. I think he’s right to raise it; it’s nearly too late but goes to prove that triangulation has reached its end game. The core have somewhere else to go and they’re needed to fund and fight the campaign. My advice is to ask us what we want, if they spent as much time listening to the membership as they did asking us for money we’d be in a better position. I hope someone’s listening.


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