I recall going into the 1997 and 2001 & 2005 elections as confident as you can be about winning given the polling and analysis of our constant voter contact work. Until the 2015 election I had been able to predict our local results within 500 votes at every election.
However, there was always the fear in the back of your mind that something out of your control nationally might go wrong during the election campaign and defeat could follow. In 1992, although a candidate in a non-winnable seat – I thought we were going to win too (nationally not locally!) . It seems in 1987 and 92 we (Labour) were judged to have the best ‘campaigns’ but still failed to get over the line on election day. In 1997 Major deliberately called a long campaign in the hope that ‘something’ would turn up or the lengthy spotlight on Blair would lead to another surprise victory or at least holding us to a small win.
This is why I have found the decision to hold a lengthy election period quite a gamble for May and the Tories. It will be a long 8 weeks if they want to their campaign to stay risk free. We saw yesterday how quickly a story can run. For a short time Labour’s position on a second referendum looked confused as different things had been said by McDonnell and Corbyn. Fortunately it was quickly shut down but the speed of social media adds an extra danger to modern day campaigns.
There will be many theories about why we lost in ’92 but the Major Soap Box was an interesting factor. Shunning the glitz of the ‘rally’ for meeting voters on a box in shopping centres. There will be a big contrast between the styles of May and Corbyn which is already evident over the first 48 hours. May is not comfortable thinking on her feet as we have seen at PMQs and other media performances. They won’t risk her out on the stump. Ironically however much people know I don’t rate Corbyn his strength does seem to be meeting like minded campaigners on the stump. It may not do enough to cause a major upset but I guess people will warm to him a little more as the campaign continues. I am not sure it will change their minds on his suitability to be the next PM but it may blunt some of the absolute media and Tory hostility that will pour down on him over the next few weeks.
Ok so if I am not going to predict the election 3 days into the campaign what will I cover? Well hopefully I want to cover a variety of aspects of the election and the key aspects of the campaign that you are interested in. . Clearly much of my experience is from being a Labour and Co-operative MP and campaigner in a marginal seat but there will be other aspects raised on twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn that I will try to cover here – so no question about policy, process, politics or personalities is too stupid. let me have them.
However, from the outset it seems for the sake of some of the Corbynistas I have to make it clear I will be voting Labour and will be doing what I can in my limited way these days to help secure victory for as many Labour MP’s as possible. I only mention this because I posted a simple question on Facebook to ask my non-political friends what they thought about the 10 Pledges announced by Corybn this week. It seemed a harmless question because I constantly hear how popular the policies are – but not Corbyn the politician. I want to cover why this disconnect happens and asked friends what can be done to win them round. I did have some concerns about some of the language being used in the pledges but this will form the basis of a separate blog. Yet once again they pile in with their abuse and name calling. Many non political friends on Facebook often privately message me or stop me and talk to me in the street for fear of posting replies on Facebook because of them! I don’t think they realise what damage they do to the Party in so many ways.
I fully understand that during an election where I want to help secure as many Labour MPs as possible I will try to be measured in my comments about Corbyn and the Labour campaign. I can’t hide my views about Corbyn and his leadership. I have spent the last couple of years hoping he would be gone before we got to a General Election but here we are. So quite rightly It is my duty to support the Party and candidates. I will also make sure I post and blog lots more about the awful state of the country the Tories are creating and exposing the mess of BREXIT. But I can’t be silenced to stop making sensible comments however hard they try.
But despite the opinion polls showing a large win for May is inevitable I am not so convinced. When you look at the seats that the Tories have to win there are too many in the ‘too difficult box’ for me to predict a comfortable win for the Tories. Privately Labour MPs have admitted the fear of losing 60-100 seats. The reason it is so hard to call is the uniform swing doesn’t take into account the decline of UKIP and their boost for the Tories or the decline on the prospect for Labour in northern seats where they came 2nd in 2015. The other big unknown at this stage is the performance of the Lib Dems. Their strong anti Brexit stance will pick up votes – but enough in the right parts of the country to actually win many seats?
So taking this all into account I am not going to be making any specific predictions until we are well into our stride during the campaign. However, we do have to be honest about the impossible task of Labour actually winning the general Election. In order to have a majority of just 1 it needs to win about 106 seats. When you look down that list Loughborough is now about the 97th seat we need to win with a 9k plus majority. I have not heard a single Corbynista/ Momentum member locally explain with any evidence how they think that size of majority will be overturned. If we can’t win seats like Loughborough we are not going to win the election.
It seems we are into the realm of hoping there is another surprise. They do happen. ‘Jennifer’s ear’ John Presott punch and the Gordon Brown bigot comment all could or did derail campaigns. This is why ‘campaigns’ have generally become so safe. The no risk strategy for the candidates is boring for us all. But you can see why nothing risky will be tried for the next few week by the Tories. They have everything to lose and expectations are high. Safety first seems to be the formula for the Tories. As it election day looms and the polls have not shifted I wonder what risks Labour will be willing to take.
It will be an interesting few weeks ahead.
So far the best detailed analysis I have seen about the seats that Labour will need to defend is here from the Fabians – showing why it is all a bit more complicated than the usual swing. Andrew Harrop argues Labour has 6 different campaigns to figh
Finally. I know at every election we claim the future of the country is at stake. But I genuinely feel it is particularly true this time around with the rise of populism across the globe and our own BREXIT issues. I fear any half decent mandate for the BREXIT Tories who have embraced many UKIP policies is a country I don’t recognise or want to live in. It has been bad enough already for the last 7 years. Another years of a right wing Tory administration makes me fear for the future of my children. It is a fight for the future direction of the country. Perhaps that’s why I get so animated about the current state of the Labour party in the polls under Corbyn. Because a strong credible Labour Party has never been so needed by the country & for that I make no apologies. Political anger is quite normal and healthy!