Thursday 28 January 2016

Labour's Prospects in the Local Elections

Is it too early to write about this? Seeing as everyone is talking about how this year's contest is a test for Jeremy, I'd like to briefly visit three push-me-pull-you factors that could have an impact.

Local elections, local politics
In the equivalent elections in 2012, we were just coming off the back of Osborne's celebrated omnishambles budget. Try as the Tories might, even they couldn't talk down the huge gains Labour made that year. However, that was something of an abnormality. Local council contests usually turn out the hardest of hardcore voters, and in the main they vote on the basis of local issues. The other parties will try their damnedest to make this set of elections a referendum on Jeremy Corbyn, but it's quite possible the Oldham effect could kick in. Voters zoned out the anti-Jeremy bile and gave Labour a thumping result. The lesson drawn by many a Local Campaign Forum might be, with Corbers plumbing the polls, that hiding him under a bushel and going all out on pot holes and unfair council cuts might capture a higher than projected vote share. It could work.

Local politics, local records
There is a big but of Sir Mix-A-Lot proportions that could blunt this strategy. Labour isn't entering this round of contests "fresh". We're defending from a position of town hall strength whose defence involves records of four years in local government. On the whole, I think Labour councils have done a good job playing their hand when the Tories always has the best cards. Others might not think that way and punish our local government people at the polls for misdemeanors, perceived money wasting, and not having the bins emptied on time. It's a dilemma. Hide Jeremy and one's record comes into sharp focus. Don't hide Jeremy, and we'll be gambling on what the polls are telling us.

Think global, act local
Well, not quite global. Our opponents and enemies are going to put the boot in to Jeremy anyway. Whether he goes on the literature or not, he's a factor. But as these are second order elections, another bloc of voters might come into play. Recall 2013 and 2014, UKIP did very well in local contests. Now, many of those administrations aren't up on this occasion but there is an uneven spread of anti-politics voters. As the press ramp up their attacks, no doubt aided by the likes of "friends" who'll say anything to get in the papers, there is a possibility they could be drawn to vote Labour as the anti-Westminster choice. Or, rather, voting Labour as a means of keeping Jeremy in situ to annoy the political establishment. So talking Jeremy up might not have the deleterious effects some folks are worried about.

Whatever happens in May, there will be folks from all wings of politics scrabbling around for easy answers to understand what happens. I'm afraid there won't be any. Complexity is the order of the day.


Boffy said...

Labour parties shouldn't hide Jeremy. Momentum should already be hitting the bricks canvassing house by house with the ward councillors and candidates, making a note of every problem, however, minor, and should be offering solutions to them, that don't involve "The Council" doing everything for people, but involve building collective solutions.

In 1983, myself and Jason Hill were selected to stand in Burslem Central. In my case, it involved the deselection of the long standing Labour Councillor, who then immediately stood against us as an Independent Labour candidate, also getting the support of other Labour Councillors from other wards, who lived in or near the ward we were standing in.

The SDP nationally were the latest media story. Labour nationally was under attack by that same media, and locally I was frequently being attacked by the Sentinel on their front page, as a "Trotskyist", organiser of various extreme campaigns for "Troops Out of Ireland", opposition to cuts and rent rises and so on.

I started knocking on doors personally from at least this early, going out every day, and night. I never shrank from criticising Labour's past failures and inadequacies. How could I? In fact, many people as now with Jeremy, were recruited on that basis, because they had shied away from Labour because of its past failures.

As an aside, I'm amazed jeremy and his supporters haven't picked up on that in response to the Tories. At PMQ's, Cameron on the one hand wants to attack the current Labour Party as something qualitatively different from the past, yet at the same time, always returns to attacking the record of Blair and Brown, as his stock response to Jeremy's questions. Jeremy should simply respond "You may have notice I am not Tony Blair or Gordon Brown."

In 1983, both myself and Jason Hill obtained the largest votes, and largest majorities ever in Burslem Central. Its not radical policies that are unpopular, its a lack of faith by voters that politicians really believe what they are saying, and that they will actually do the work needed to turn them into reality.

Anonymous said...

Given that local elections attract a poor turnout, perhaps the zeal of Corbyn's supporters will have a meaningful impact in May, even if it won't be enough for a general election.

Matt Wardman said...

The PR aspects will be interesting.

What will seamus Milne's strategy be?

And what will the impact of ideologically driven policies be? Here we have a Corbynite trying to take all the houses currently run by an excellent ALMO back into direct Council control, seemingly against the will of the residents. That is a lot of votes they could lose.

The Fulcrum said...

People can mention Oldham all they like, but the fact is, a Liz Kendall supporter with a track record in local politics won. The actual local election data to hand indicates stagnant or falling vote share everywhere outside London.

The fact is, the Cameron government is a shoddy mess right now - divided over Europe, resorting to cheap stunts (ESOL funding to prevent terrorism, anyone?) and Cameron pretty much permanently has a negative approval rating. Osborne is already getting his excuses in for the next recession. Even with the 2012 cohort, this government should be an easy target, and yet they aren't.

Anonymous said...

Excellent comment from Boffy.

Anonymous said...

Support for Liz Kendall does not have one meaning, just as "pragmatism" does not have one meaning. The Oldham MP is something new, something irreducible to Blairism.

Gary Elsby said...

Why wasn't Boffy and Jason suspended and expelled from Labour for daring to criticise Labour openly as though it was a broach church of open transparent internal/external democracy?

Why has the 're-structuring' of Labour locally put Labour into opposition?