In January the Ed Miliband set a challenge for the party’s candidates, members and supporters – have four million conversations by election day. Ed Miliband has now confirmed that as of today (April 29th) that target been achieved – and the aim is now to have a million more conversations in the final week before the election.
Now it’s important to clarify what we mean by conversations here. These are doorstep canvassing conversations (largely tightly focussed dialogue aimed at finding out how people will voting). So that’s four million people who have been contacted by the party on that basis in less than four months. You can quibble about whether or not that’s a “conversation” – but it’s certainly an impressive achievement, far surpassing what Labour (or any other party have achieved before).
Both Labour HQ – and Labour activists around the country – are rightly proud of Labour’s “ground game” which is widely considered to be better than the Tory alternative. Whilst neither party could be considered to have “mass membership”, Labour’s membership tends to be younger, more active and more likely to get involved in an election campaign.
In tight marginal (of which there are many) that can make a real difference. These four million conversations will be a big part of that difference. I wouldn’t expect the Tories (or any other party) to release similar figures. Here’s how those contacts break down by region:
|Region||Contact since 1 Jan|
|Yorkshire and Humber||456,802|
As you can see, the areas with the fewest contacts are the South West (where Labour’s vote tends to be low, and where efforts are focussed on a handful of key seats) and the North (largely the North East, which has many safe seats, and which is smaller than many other regions). Across all other regions activity levels are broadly similar, with a real focus on London (which has a number of key marginal but also a large and active membership), Scotland (where the party is fighting for its life – and where the ground campaign may save a number of seats) and the North West (which has made the most contacts, has a decent membership base and a significant number of marginals too).
(That half a million in Scotland jumps out – that means a huge proportion of Scots have been contacted by Labour. And yet…the polls keep getting worse…shy unionist syndrome? Or this tactic isn’t working in Scotland. We’ll find out in 8 days.)
But four million contacts isn’t the peak of Miliband’s ambition. With the election likely to be close, the Labour leader is now calling on activists to have another million conversations before election day. Now as anyone who has been involved with elections will know, the final week is usually dedicated to GOTV (Get Out The Vote), so I would assume that the bulk of those conversations will be with existing Labour supporters and those identified as likely to back Labour candidates – but that does nothing to diminish the size of the task. Even if that only takes place in Labour 106 target seats, that would still involve speaking to 10,000 people per seat in the final week of the campaign.
If that level of activity can be delivered – and the Tory ground game continues to be as it currently appears (sporadic and lacklustre) – then we could see some very interesting results on election night.
Here’s what Miliband is expected to say about the campaign tomorrow – as the final week begins:
“There are just seven days to go before you get the chance to change how our country is run.
“Seven days to take your chance to make Britain run for working people once again.
“Seven days to put your family first.
“It is a chance you don’t often get.
“A chance that only comes every five years.
“And this is the closest General Election anyone can remember.
“We are campaigning in the right way, not talking over people’s heads, but speaking direct – in every town, street-by-street, door-by-door – with an unprecedented four million conversations since the start of this year.
“And today I’m challenging my party to do one million more in the next seven days to get us to five million.
“Because this election is not, at heart, about any one party or any one politician.
“It is about you. Your vote matters. This is your time.
“We’ve heard a lot from David Cameron in the last five weeks.
“Five weeks of him making false promises, dangerous, unfunded commitments dreamt up overnight with no idea of where the money is coming from and a plan to pay for the NHS with an IOU.
“Five weeks of the Tories boasting about the good life while planning hard times ahead with the biggest cuts anywhere in the world, cuts that will hit your family budget and our vital public services.
“Five weeks of the road to more broken promises and failure, with him saying he will keep taxes down when the truth is will put them up.
“I ask you this: do you believe what you’ve heard from the Tories in the last five weeks? Or do you believe what you’ve seen and what your family has felt in the last five years?
“When you remember their record you realise the reality of their plan. And it’s a record the Tories are desperate not to talk about, a record to run from not run on.
“Labour has a better plan for a better future: a plan not just for a fairer country, but a more prosperous one.
“This election is Britain’s big chance to make a big choice.
“A choice between putting working families first with Labour or putting the wealthiest and most powerful first with the Tories.
“A choice between investing in the NHS and our children’s education or a Tory plan for extreme cuts.
“A choice between a better plan and a better future with Labour or a Tory plan where the recovery never reaches your front door.
“The truth is your families can’t afford five more years of putting the wealthiest first.
“Your NHS can’t afford five more years of extreme spending cuts.
“And Britain can’t afford five more years of wasted talent and ruined futures.
“David Cameron will do anything he can to distract you from the real choice. He wants to distract you by banging on about deals with other parties after the election because he has nothing to say about the real issues in this election: the NHS, immigration, family living standards, and the future of our children.
“I tell you the deal I will make. I will make a deal with the working people of Britain in every part of Britain.
“For a strong economic foundation.
“For higher living standards
“For an NHS with the time to care.
“For controls on immigration.
“For a country where the next generation can do better than the last.
“And for homes to buy and action on rent.
“That’s the only deal I want to make.
“That’s Labour’s offer, that’s Labour’s plan, based on the simple truth that it’s when working families succeed that Britain succeeds”
“A better plan. A better future. Let’s make it happen together.”