Saturday, 22 April 2017

Labour Party Campaign Strategy

A few remarks to complement yesterday's consideration of Tory strategy.

1. Labour is massively behind in the polls. Whether you think they're wrong or not (I don't believe they are), they have material effects on campaigns and election outcomes. Some countries limit their use in the lead up to voting for a reason. We're at a disadvantage, and we're perceived to be at a disadvantage. On top of that, Jeremy Corbyn is viewed negatively by the public at large. The polls show it. Reception on the doors show it. Why that is has a number of roots and is something for after the campaign's conclusion, not now.

2. With the tide of public opinion against it and facing up to the worst press our party can ever expect to receive, Labour has wisely gone for a split campaign. In effect, Labour is going to be running 229 local campaigns defending seats the party holds, and a smattering of other locally-focused efforts where the candidate lost in 2015 but the margins are tight, and who-knows-what elsewhere. From perceived necessity, Jeremy is being filed away for the election by local campaign committees and the emphasis on x Labour person standing up for their area vs the Tories is on the cards. In other words, turning a national election into local elections is the pathway to safety. Good if you're an MP with a strong local record and profile, not if you've spent your time in Westminster "socialising" at Strangers and doing precious little else.

3. With the odds stacked against him, this is the Corbyn moment par excellence. Earlier in the year we were promised Trumpian-stylee populism, and now we have it. The Corbyn campaign launched on Thursday with a very clear us vs them message, meaning that already the party has a level of clarity we struggled to achieve in 2015. Will this make a difference? We shall see, but what it can do is a) motivate large swathes of the party's membership to hit the campaign trail, b) hope to draw the disaffected in its train, and c) force the Tories to respond. By putting the big issues upfront early and framing them, it makes the attacks and smears to come look cowardly and desperate, and it gives us an issue base from which to immediately rebut Tory policy.

4. This is what Jeremy is good at. His leadership campaigns from the last two summers were master classes. The task for his team and our movement is to repeat it on steroids. When the leader is up there addressing crowds, even when he's taking hostile questions from the press, he looks impressive. If there is hope for Labour, it lies in the ability of this campaign to get voters to take a second look at what he's doing and what his message is. It also conveys a simple truism: Jeremy is comfortable in public talking to and engaging with people. Theresa May, like a typical authoritarian, is terrified of them.

5. The local campaigns and the national effort don't have to be at cross purposes. Here in Stoke, part of our messaging is going to be around making Brexit work for our people - just as it was during the by-election. Likewise, messages around 'A Brexit that works for all' are starting to come out, and before the election was called work was being done in understanding what progressive policies could be adopted whose implementation would have been prevented by continued EU membership - a much more imaginative approach than Tory hopes for free trade deals with far off lands. As Labour is facing a LibDem threat in some Remain-voting seats, and have been pinned as incoherent on this issue by our opponents, unanimity on what a Labour-negotiated Brexit is essential.

9 comments:

Albert Tatlock said...

Terry May is much more vulnerable than her media cheerleaders would have us believe. She'd get demolished by Corbyn and Sturgeon in any leaders' debate. So I think we just need to press the BBC to hold some leaders' debates and keep the rather sinister Tom Watson bound, gagged, and safely out of the way in a broom cupboard somewhere until it's all over.

jim mclean said...

Why, Brexit is wrong, it is an attack on the gains made through EU membership, it is an attack on the Youth of the country, it will restrict freedom of movement to a middle class elite with exceptions made when immigration can be used to drive down wages. The decision by Labour to work with the Tories on this is obscene. It will probably lead to the end of the Peace Process in Northern Ireland and a resurgence of the Tories in Scotland. Now that Corbyn and his allies have made it clear they will not stand back after a defeat and JC will be replaced by a younger Acolyte I will be putting our leaflets through the doors like an invitation to a Wake. We are stuck in the middle of two power grabs by the extreme right and left.

Phil said...

The ship has sailed. Disregarding the referendum result is the most politically dangerous and incredibly stupid thing Labour could do.

Anonymous said...

The polls suggest its an uphill battle just to stand still. Fact is we are in damage limitation mode, trying to keep hood of as many sitting MP's as we can. Things can shift during a campaign but the harsh reality is that we are not going to be able to make ourselves look a credible government in waiting over the next 6 weeks. We have far too much ground to make it. Losing less than 40 seats would be some kind of result.
Think you're being unduly optimistic about what Corbyn can achieve and about how much damage the Tories can inflict by bringing up his past. Once people make their mind up about a politician its very difficult to shift that view. He is unpopular and I'm not convinced trying to present himself as the outside anti establishment figure will have much appeal. He may energise the core support but floating voters aren't going to come on board.
I do think our chances would improve if we tightened up our media strategy, get some punchy, short messaging and get some of our better performers out there. Dawn Butler the other day was embarrassing, while McDonnell and Abbott are hardly vote winners. It does us few favours to have most of our spokespeople representing London seats. Can we not get Cooper, Nandy, Smith, Rayner, Lewis and Benn involved?
All in all, there is serious work to do, top to bottom.
I'm fearful it will be too much.

Steve

MikeB said...

May has - brilliantly, if only half-consciously - called an election prior to going to war. It's the Falklands all over again.

Brexit is now unmistakably framed as Bulldog Britain against Johnny Foreigner. And so it's time to pull together and get behind the Iron Lady and our boys in the Brexit team.

In part, this is a consequence of Labour conceding that the 52% vote meant nothing other than uncontested, immediate withdrawal from the EU - they conceded the logic of war and willed it to take place.

Corbyn's "us v the elite" might just have worked in another context. But when Labour has agreed that the big question of the day is a quick Brexit, and that we need to brace for a war, to start an argument based on questioning national unity smacks of mutiny. The voters won't wear it. "Oh, stop it - it's done now," they say, "Let's back our boys and let them get on with it"



Anonymous said...

An election by the Tories, for the Tories. Which genius of a Labour strategist decided to hand it to them? Truly baffling decision.

MikeB said...

^ In my mind, it was the Labour "strategists" who decided that the best option was to respond to the Brexit referendum by accepting the Tory/UKIP interpretation that it meant immediate and unconditional triggering of Article 50. Presumably they thought this concession would have no adverse consequences and they'd have plenty of time to develop a coherent Left alternative before the next election.

Wrong on both counts - those who voted remain were left with no alternative vision and a Tory party which is now unchallenged in representing the "common sense" attitude to Brexit. It will take votes from both UKIP and Labour as a result.

Barney said...

Steve, you say

> Can we not get Cooper, Nandy, Smith, Rayner, Lewis and Benn involved?

Rayner is at it in force – as she has been. Lewis is campaigning for himself, having made a similar decision to Burnham's a while back, that he needed to distance himself from the leadership and pursue his career on his own terms. It should be obvious by now that Cooper, Nandy, and Benn have no intention of supporting a unified Labour vision this election. Cooper's behaviour at the start of this election paints a pretty unambiguous picture.

Charles said...

Labour needs to turn the Tory 'strong leader' approach on its head. Jeremy should say 'she markets herself as a strong leader .. yes a leader who is going to lead us down the garden path to a hard brexit with devastating consequences for the economy, a leader who is going to lead us to an off-shore tax haven economy, a leader who is going to lead us to cuts in the NHS and longer waiting lists, a leader who is going to lead us to an education system where a minority of kids will receive a fully funded elitist education (paid for by our taxes) etc etc.