On the Surrey campaign trail with John Denham
Following a great win for Labour in his Southampton seat on May 3rd the Rt.Hon. John Denham MP came back on May 10th 2012 to London University’s Holloway College in Egham where Labour’s fightback in the South East was launched in the 1990’s. Sylvia Heal, former Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons chaired the meeting.
John spoke to students from the political and economics department and Labour Party councillors and activists from Surrey and a lively Q&A session followed afterwards. John is now PPS to Ed Miliband but was Business Secretary and Higher Education Minister in the previous government and is therefore highly competent to speak on both topics.
He said Ed Miliband is leading on ‘responsible capitalism’, and that the government should be working alongside the private sector for it to be successful. The two go hand in hand but this is not happening as the state sector gets increasingly cut back. He is also right about the ‘squeezed middle’ who are receptive to ways in which to support them, and that we should use both of these in local campaigns.
The LibDems will be seen locally as the opposition to the Tories wherever Labour has ‘vacated the space’ and our fightback must be to be seen again as ‘relevant’. People may not be seeing us as the vehicle for them, due in part historically to Labour’s weak labour movement in the South. We should be seen as the representative of people whose bills are 20% higher than in the North. And so we must relate the story to our own area. What issues are relevant here? Find specific cases – local deficiencies – and show them up. But relate them to the national picture too. Go from the local to the national not the other way round.
We have to make people see that we can make a difference, and empower them to support us.
Values in the South are actually no different from elsewhere and there are three reasons why voters will want to vote for us, if we can:
* Show that our values are their values – we are like them and are defending their values
* Show how much the problems in this part of Surrey concern us and discuss them on the doorstep not only at election times
* Show that Labour is alive in their area, has a presence and a visible profile (leaflets, street stalls, local campaigns and letters/articles in the press)
And so the action plan should be to continue to soften the LibDem vote by exposing their national shortcomings; avoid the trap of promising more than we can deliver; use social media around local issues to reach young people and support young candidates in engaging with it, and finally, to have local campaigns and sign people up to them.