Labour’s performance in Hertfordshire

Constituency 2010 vote % 2015 vote % Improvement Position Gap %
Stevenage 33.4 34.2 0.8 2nd 10.3
Watford 26.7 26.0 -0.7 2nd 17.5
St Albans 17.6 23.3 5.7 2nd 23.3
Welwyn Hatfield 21.4 26.1 4.7 2nd 24.3
Hemel Hempstead 20.8 23.8 3.0 2nd 29.1
Hitchin and Harpenden 13.6 20.6 7.0 2nd 36.3
North East Hertfordshire 16.4 18.9 2.5 2nd 36.5
Hertsmere 18.8 22.4 3.6 2nd 36.9
Broxbourne 17.6 18.4 0.8 3rd 37.7
Hertford and Stortford 13.8 17.0 3.2 2nd 39.1
South West Hertfordshire 11.5 16.3 4.8 2nd 40.6

Hertfordshire, like Essex, is a sea of blue politically nowadays. It was not always so. Like Essex it had a good number of Labour MPs in 1997 and the immediately following elections, and the demise of Labour here, as in Essex, explains why we are not in government. Well, explains in part. We have to win seats in the south and east of England if we are to win power nationally, and this means Essex and Hertfordshire.

The trick, I guess, is to work out what we have to do to appeal to the voters in this part of the country. Progress has been made, though, which has been somewhat obscured by the national picture. Earlier this month, with gains in Cambridge and Norwich South, Labour has doubled its representation in the East of England. We need to get into double figures, I think something like thirteen seats in the East (of 58) would likely signal a Labour Government.

My councillor roles this civic year (2015 – 2016)

Deputy Leader of the Labour Group on Southend-on-Sea Borough Council

Place Scrutiny Committee

Place Scrutiny Programme Working Party
Public Transport and Buses Working Party
Waste Management Working Party

Essex Fire Authority
Homeless Action Resource Project
Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education

Choose human, and change tactics

There is an untestable theory in some Labour circles that a donkey with a red rosette would have won in 1997. This attitude towards Tony Blair stands in contrast to what is being said about Ed Miliband. Either those that lead matter, or they don’t. Much like that favourite question “who was the best Labour Prime Minister ever?”. Clement Attlee fans need to be reminded that whilst he achieved a thumping majority in 1945 and his first term saw much done, he was out of office by 1951.

I do not buy the timidity argument for the first Blair term either. Look at the 2001 result, a second landslide almost as good as 1997. Say what you like about Blair, voters liked him. If it was a timid administration, timidity clearly worked.

I am no Blairite – I am in no particular wing or faction. However, I do like Labour governments. I sometimes wonder whether some on the left share my fondness for Labour victories; you could believe that vainglorious opposition is preferred. Doing it in administration beats any shouting from the sidelines, in my opinion.

We are embarked on a journey that will lead to the unveiling of a new leadership team in September. I am less bothered at the moment about policy (our 2020 manifesto is some way from being written yet) when choosing a leader and deputy than I am about the mechanics of success. We have to win, and I am looking for a winner.

Let’s choose human, and whilst we are at it let’s re-assess our campaigning methods. I am less than keen on our targeting strategy which plays right into the laws of diminishing returns. Besides, talking just to friends is not only easy, it is a recipe for disaster.

Those who support us at our electoral nadir require little persuasion to stick with us. We have to find new support, and this means finding out what those who either abstain or plump for the alternatives really want.

Too many times I am advised not to speak to ‘againsts’ or those who our records indicate don’t vote. Too often have we abandoned whole tracts of the country as unwinnable, ignoring not only the stalwarts there who pay their dues and deserve some activity in return, but also the possibilities of new activists acquired as well as those conversations we are desperately in need of.

Whether we like it or not, our campaigning methods have brought us to where we are today. We have to be expansive if we want success in future, we have to listen and be prepared to compromise or change course, and we have to be led by someone who can connect with voters.

Group roles

In the last week the Southend-on-Sea Borough Council Labour Group held its annual general meeting.

The following positions were filled:

Chair                 Cllr Kevin Robinson

Leader              Cllr Ian Gilbert

Deputy Leader  Cllr Julian Ware-Lane

Secretary          Cllr Cheryl Nevin

Treasurer           Cllr Margaret Borton

Whip                 Cllr Judith McMahon

 

The pecking order in Essex

When asked about the constituencies in Essex in terms of most winnable for Essex, as I was earlier today, I said that I would look at what the numbers from May 7th indicated. The data here shows how far Labour is from victory (Gap). Whilst every constituency is unique, and one has to factor in how much squeezable vote there is, as well as the history of each seat and whether there are local authority representatives from Labour, this is, I believe, as good a yardstick as any.

constituency Labour vote % position gap %
Thurrock 32.6 2 1.1
South Basildon and East Thurrock 25.2 3 18.2
Harlow 30.0 2 18.9
Rochford and Southend East 24.7 2 21.7
Colchester 16.2 3 22.8
Basildon and Billericay 23.7 2 29.0
Clacton 14.4 3 30.0
Harwich and North Essex 19.7 2 31.3
Southend West 18.3 2 31.5
Braintree 18.5 3 35.3
Chelmsford 17.6 2 35.9
Castle Point 13.8 3 37.0
Epping Forest 16.1 3 38.6
Witham 15.8 3 41.7
Rayleigh and Wickford 12.6 3 42.1
Saffron Walden 11.8 3 45.4
Maldon 11.8 3 48.8
Brentwood and Ongar 12.5 3 50.7

I do not think there are too many surprises here, although Colchester at number five may raise an eyebrow or two – Colchester was last won by Labour in 1945. Mind you, Rochford and Southend East (and its predecessor seats) has never been Labour.

Labour leadership contests timetable announced

The timetable for the election of a new Labour leader and deputy have been announced, and I reproduce it below.

To be honest, I would have been tempted to have a more aggressive timetable (I think one of the failures in 2010 is that we spent far too much time looking at ourselves, allowing the Tory narrative to remain unchallenged for months). I would have also considered running the deputy contest afterwards, not alongside, the leadership contest. This would have allowed the runners-up to consider applying to be the deputy.

Last time I managed to get to two of the leadership hustings in person, and I hope to do similar this time around. Who knows? Maybe one of the hopefuls might even visit Southend!

Friday 15 May Election Period Opens
Monday 8 June PLP Nomination Hustings for Leader
Tuesday 9 June PLP Nomination Hustings for Deputy Leader
Tuesday 9 June PLP Nominations Open
12 noon Monday 15 June PLP Nominations (Leader) Close
12 noon Wednesday 17 June PLP Nominations (Deputy Leader) Close
Wednesday 17 June Hustings period opens
12 noon Friday 31 July Supporting Nominations Close
12 noon Wednesday 12 August Last date to join as member, affiliated supporter, or registered supporter
Friday 14 August Ballot mailing despatched
12 noon Thursday 10 September Ballot closes
Saturday 12 September Special conference to announce result

Labour vote shares in Essex

Constituency 2010 vote % 2015 vote % Improvement
Chelmsford 11.0 17.6 6.6
Southend West 13.4 18.3 4.9
Rochford and Southend East 20.3 24.7 4.4
Colchester 12.3 16.2 3.9
Brentwood and Ongar 9.9 12.5 2.6
Saffron Walden 9.7 11.8 2.1
Epping Forest 14.3 16.1 1.8
Basildon and Billericay 23.0 23.7 0.7
Harwich and North Essex 19.9 19.7 -0.2
Castle Point 14.7 13.8 -0.9
Maldon 12.7 11.8 -0.9
Braintree 19.9 18.5 -1.4
Rayleigh and Wickford 14.5 12.6 -1.9
Witham 18.5 15.8 -2.7
Harlow 33.7 30.0 -3.7
Thurrock 36.6 32.6 -4.0
South Basildon and East Thurrock 31.0 25.2 -5.8
Clacton 25.0 14.4 -10.6

This table lists the eighteen Essex Parliamentary constituencies, ordered by the percentage improvement in the Labour vote.

I could have ordered this table in quite a number of ways, but I am proud of managing the second best jump in vote share in Essex, and delighted that Labour is now second in Southend West. Whilst it is some distance from being a marginal, we are now the main challenger here – and there is more anti-Tory vote to squeeze.

I am aware that very campaign has its own story, and of the incredible amount of work put in by candidates and their teams.

I would suggest that the priority seats remain those with the largest absolute vote share. This means, in order, Thurrock, Harlow, South Basildon and East Thurrock. The two Southend seats are fourth and eighth.

For me the story of the 2015 elections and the Labour campaign is best summarised by looking at Clacton. It seems obvious to me that Labour was leaking more support to UKIP than had been previously acknowledged.

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