EDITOR’S NOTE: I disagree with points 1, 5 and 12.
I worked hard, and successfully, to get my MP elected against the run of play in the last two general elections. Glenda Jackson held Hampstead and Kilburn with just 42 votes in 2010 and Tulip Siddiq held the seat with a majority of 1,100 in 2015 despite it being the Tories’ top target. So here are my tips to win in 2017.
- If you have any link to Corbyn, try and get him to resign. Almost impossible I know but this has to come as our number 1 priority as it is the most effective thing Labour can do. It will turn a defensive campaign, where we are trying to hold onto seats, into an offensive one. Yes I know it effectively means that Tom Watson will take over as leader but he is still light years better than Corbyn.
- Following on from no.1 don’t mention Corbyn (unless his name crops up, in which case talk about him not being around for ever). Use “Labour”, not “Corbyn”. This worked in Oldham West and for the London Mayor campaign. Even if you can say something nice about Corbyn don’t. Move the conversation on to issues. If there are any Corbyn supporters campaigning locally, encourage them to get out and canvass; they need to get face-to-face with some voters and out of their fantasy world. This may not help us this time but will help us build for the future.
- “Underdog status”, “strong opposition” and “anti-establishment” are three cards worth playing, play them hard, these are arguments that are likely to be heard nationally so reinforce them locally.
- Stay off social media. Election campaigns are not won online, they are won on doorsteps, through letterboxes and on phonebanks. Social media is worse than useless; it takes away valuable campaigning time and effort. The only exception to this is to share strategies that you have found to work, questions, conversation topics, tactics on the doorstep in appropriate Labour Party forums.
- Attack the Tories, not the Lib Dems. I know this might sound counterintuitive but Labour does well when the LDs do well. We need them to take votes off the Tories, and they will do that; they will take Remain votes from them, which is crucial in our first-past-the-post election system. Obviously this may vary depending on the seat you are fighting but as a general principle it is sound, we need them to do well if we are to do well.
- Pick your battles. There is no doubt that the Tories are going to take a lot of seats off Labour so campaigning in a seat with a Tory majority of 5,000 or a labour majority of less than 2,000 is likely to be a waste of time and effort. I am choosing a seat which will be a typical battleground; Eltham, with a 2,600 Labour majority but with 6,000 Ukip votes. This is going to be a Tory target, but is still holdable as it has a large number of young professionals and a lot of the Ukip vote will not easily transfer to the Tories. I will not be campaigning in Hampstead and Kilburn this time; a three-way marginal in a 75% Remain area, it is very likely to go Lib Dem in my opinion. There may be exceptions to this; Wes Streeting has a small majority in Ilford North, which he took off the Tories against the run of play last time. However he has worked very hard to keep it warm so it may go against the run of play again this time. Obviously you need to look at local circumstances. My feeling is that the Tories will probably take about 80 seats off Labour so if we can hold any of those that is a good result. We need to target our efforts. Sorry Tulip.
- No. REALLY listen. Voters are angry, that is why they did the self-destructive thing during the referendum. Listen to what they have to say, don’t interrupt, and respond to what they have said when they have vented. A voter who is listened to is much more likely to listen to you and vote Labour. Ask open-ended questions: What are the most important issues for you? What can we do to improve the economy? What do you think of (insert prominent issue of the day here)? This may take time but it is more likely to be effective.
- If a voter is non-committal, ask a provocative question; How much are you willing to lose to pay for Brexit? £20 a week? £50…? £100…?
- Keep an eye on the Brexit/fascist media, pick out inconsistencies and contradictions, keep them in your argument arsenal in case they are useful on the doorstep.
- Help to get out the vote on polling day. It is likely that this election will have a low turnout, voters are not enthusiastic, knocking-up voters between 5 and 9pm on polling day will make a huge difference, if you have a car, being available to ferry elderly or disabled voters to the polls on the day, will also help. The 42 votes Glenda Jackson won H&K by in 2010 was entirely dependent on getting the vote out in the final hours of polling day.
- Election Fraud. One of the few types of constituencies we are likely to take from the Tories are the 30-odd Tory marginals where the sitting MP is being investigated for election fraud. We won’t know these until just before polling day, according to Buzzfeed, but as soon as we do, these seats need to be flooded with volunteers to big up voter outrage, obviously the Tory media will be silent about these so we need to make the noise ourselves. If need be find articles about it in papers like the Mirror or local papers about it and take them round canvassing with you to show you are not making it up. We need to be ready with leaflets ready to go and volunteers on the ground.
- Be prepared to vote tactically yourself. LD/Green/SNP are all better than the Tories. Look at it this way. If Labour can keep its losses to around 40 seats (which would be very good going IMO) but the LDs take 20-30 off the Tories, then Theresa May is not much better off and can’t claim vindication for her policies very easily and will make her an easier target for whoever succeeds Corbyn.
- Have realistic expectations. Diane Abbott has said Labour can win outright, and Corbyn also seems to be claiming that. This would mean taking 100 seats off the Tories. Just to put this into perspective, we would need to take Brexit Secretary David Davis’ seat of Monmouth if we are to form a government with a majority of one. In 2015 his majority was 11,000 and he won 49.9% of the vote.
- Self care and protection. The media has been keeping its powder dry in terms of attacking Corbyn. The closer it gets to June 8th the more we will see of that photo of him with Assad, the one with Gerry Adams, and the more we will hear about his apparent support for the IRA and groups like Hezbollah. I suspect there is other material we don’t yet know about ready to be revealed in the Tory Tabloids. In extremis this could result in voters reacting to canvassers and leaflet deliverers violently. Probably not but take care out there. Work in groups unless there is a good reason not to. Report abuse or violence to the police.
- Don’t rely on the NHS. Labour used this issue as a crutch in Copeland and in 2015. It doesn’t work, voters are more likely to believe “scaremongering” accusations than real stories of NHS underfunding. It is not the live issue we would like it to be.