We don’t have abundant resources. We don’t share the Tories’ ability to inject millions into target seats. We don’t have long left before the general election.
What we do have is a team of some of the most dedicated activists – people who are willing to commit significant amounts of their time to talking to voters to get a Labour government.
We have a duty to make sure that, when volunteers sacrifice their time for us, we put it to best use. To win the general election, we need to concentrate our efforts where they’ll have the biggest impact: in our target marginal seats.
When it comes to prioritising resources, the conversation shouldn’t just be about money and leaflets, but the even more valuable resource of activists’ time. The conversation has to include moving volunteers out of non-priority seats and into our targets.
This doesn’t mean that we neglect any seats; it’s still important to build our capacity in every constituency, from Richmond to Horsham, with new members’ events and policy forums. It does, however, mean ensuring that those activists in Richmond and Horsham are regularly campaigning in their nearest marginal seats: Stockton South and Crawley.
Twinning constituencies is a good way of achieving this. Douglas Alexander did it in the 2010 election and in many areas it proved successful. My Tory stronghold constituency, Rushcliffe, was twinned with nearby marginal Gedling. This meant that, when new members joined my CLP, I would call them and invite them to campaign sessions in Gedling to ensure we had the maximum amount of people on the ground. We spent every weekend (and eventually every evening) there – and we won it against the odds.
So far we have frontbench twinning in place, whereby each frontbench MP has responsibility for a marginal seat. Now we need to get seat twinning in place again across the country to complement that and ensure that our time is spent where it’s most effective.
In Young Labour we’re focusing our efforts and resources on our key seats. We’re working to set up Young Labour groups to cover each of the 106 target seats to grow our activist base – for example, last weekend I spoke at Swindon South’s CLP meeting about setting up a group to cover the marginal seats of Swindon South and Swindon North. We’re also organising monthly national campaign days in key seats in each region and on Saturday I was proud to join 50 Young Labour and Labour Students members on the doorstep in Ilford North. Labour Students is the exemplar when it comes to descending en masse on the areas that need it most, regularly providing a much-needed hit of members to marginal seats across the country.
For many, moving activists around the country is like a game of Risk. We tell people where to go and they duly follow. The reality is far form the truth. We need to give people a reason to turn up in our marginals – we need to make it fun, welcoming and show people that it is part of a bigger plan. When volunteers’ time is valued they come back and do more. When they feel like a pawn in someone else’s game they slip away and are never seen again.
The Labour 3 Seats Challenge is a great example of Labour activists going out of their way to seek out marginal seats and put their time to best use. The first weekend in January saw 51 volunteers out campaigning in Crawley, Hove and Ilford North, with a combined total of 1,504 contacts made. We’ll be organising monthly challenges from now on, aiming to get more new activists involved each time. On 8 February we’ll be out campaigning in Finchley and Golders Green, Hendon and Harrow East. MobMonday did the same in the last election. People campaigning where it matters most to achieve the shared goal of the party and the best outcome for the people we care about: victory in 2015.
On the NEC we’ve talked about the incentives and rewards we can provide for key seats that meet their targets. We also need to talk about incentives and rewards for those in non-priority seats who regularly go and campaign in our marginals – be that the promise of shadow cabinet speakers to new members’ events or free passes to conference.
From now until 2015 we need a laser-like focus on our 106 targets and we need to do all we can to ensure that that focus is adopted across the party. Working together we can get the greatest reward for our work – making history and making this Tory government a one-term government.