The Labour Party is now in a position where it can build solid foundations in every city, town and village in the country. With a commitment to grassroots activity, Labour could create strong community ties that will last generations and provide a firm bedrock from which we can flower and grow.
To achieve this, Labour must ditch some of the short-term thinking that has undermined its support in many towns and villages.
For decades, Labour concentrated all resources only on ‘key seats’. This has meant that Labour supporters in ‘unwinnable’ towns and villages have been asked to ditch their local concerns and campaign in a neighbouring, more marginal constituency.
The rationale behind focusing on ‘winnable’ seats was purely a lack of numbers on the ground. A party with under 200,000 members simply did not have enough active people to attempt to win every seat.
Seats – or even wards in council elections – have been identified as ‘unwinnable’ and ‘paper candidates’ have been put up (ie not really a serious candidate – just there on paper).
Why bother to put up candidates when there has been no campaigning on the ground and there is no expectation of winning (especially when this costs a fair amount of money)? The answer is that it is good for Labour’s image to be seen to be standing everywhere regardless of whether they win and so people have a choice to vote Labour.
I now think it’s time to move one step further with this approach.
Why don’t we stand candidates in every ward and seat and actually earnestly campaign in those wards and seats – so that people in those communities know that Labour really does have a presence everywhere?
We now have over 600,000 members and many of those members are in ‘unwinnable’ seats. We need to energise those members and not make them feel like they are simply paying a subscription that will help Labour win in marginal seats.
Last year’s General Election saw many new towns – and villages – emerge as possible Labour strongholds of the future.
Bournemouth, for example, has a large Labour membership that were inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and is now working hard to overturn two formerly ‘unwinnable’ Tory seats. Young local activists like Henry Land are enthusiastically campaigning during the local elections as they build up to the next General Election. The Stand up for Labour event in Bournemouth had an attendance of over 150 people and it was supported by three trade unions plus a local business (Unicorn) (see picture above).
Henry Land is not alone in wanting to transform Labour’s fortunes in formerly ‘unwinnable’ seats.
In Aldershot, Hampshire, Alex Crawford and Hashim Hassan promoted a very successful Stand up for Labour show in March and, in May, Stand up for Labour is putting on shows in Minehead (West Somerset) as well as North Walsham (North Norfolk) and Alton (East Hampshire).
It would benefit these CLPs if the party could also push forward policies that would benefit rural areas. The recent Fabians report, ‘How Labour can reconnect with the countryside’, shows that Labour has a poor image in these communities. The report calls for commitments to improve transport, broadband and supporting small business. These policies would not only increase Labour’s popularity in these seats but would pressure the government into improving services that would benefit local residents for generations to come.
With a combination of ‘rural-proof’ policies and a large group of activists Labour can potentially win everywhere.
- You can buy tickets for Stand up for Labour through the website.