A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Reasons not to diss swing voters No1

Reasons not to diss swing voters No1:

If your parliamentary seat has had its boundaries changed and name changed to Dagenham & Rainham, lost three council estate wards to Barking and picked up three wards from Hornchurch where the Tories are competitive or ahead, perhaps it hasn't been wise to have devoted so much energy to telling the Labour Party to pay less heed to the concerns of the kind of swing voters who pick between Labour and the Tories.

My partner happened to be the Labour full-time Agent for Hornchurch in 2005. She describes one of the new wards moved into Dagenham & Rainham - Rainham & Wennington as "semi-rural, with wall-to-wall owner-occupied bungalows and villas and a very elderly population". Just the kind of people who will respond to a more radical Labour Party. Not.

London Tory activist Sean Fear claims that "Dagenham & Rainham provides an outside chance of a Conservative gain".

Maybe the seat's MP's misguided strategy would do for him as well as his colleagues in the seats that make up Labour's majority, if we were foolish enough to adopt it.


Blogger el tom said...

Strategy for what?

2:40 am, February 05, 2007

Anonymous nick said...

I was out campaigning in Rainham last week and oddly enough, I was not accosted on the doorsteps by people furious that Jon Cruddas was opposing top-up fees, demanding more affordable housing and the like.

John Cryer consistently performed above regional and national norms in elections and was very unlucky to lose in '05 in what was always a very difficult seat for Labour to hold. His politics and tactics, I think it fair to say, are considerably closer to Jon Cruddas' than yours, Luke...

Not that I've ever heard Cruddas "diss swing voters" anyway.

9:53 am, February 05, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

It's not the actual policies that are the problem - I'm in favour of Labour having policies that deliver for and motivate our core vote. As I've repeatedly said on this blog I was publicly against top-up fees as a parliamentary candidate.

It's the repeated statements that we focus too much on marginal seats that are the problem. Because eventually people in marginal seats will start hearing that and thinking we don't care about them.

Most of the most identifiably "New Labour" policies such as the respect agenda on ASB are the very ones that resonate most with our core vote.

I think there is space for us to develop a more radical approach on issues Cruddas cares about such as social housing and manufacturing as long as we don't dress it up in outdated workerist rhetoric, as long as we make it clear these are policies that will benefit the whole country not just our heartlands, and as long as we stick to the current stance on tax, immigration, defence and crime, which are the "deal-breakers" where if we concede ground to the Tories we are back in a 1980s scenario.

10:54 am, February 05, 2007

Blogger daggi said...

Dagenham & Rainham - Rainham & Wennington as "semi-rural, with wall-to-wall owner-occupied bungalows and villas and a very elderly population"

That's Rainham and Wennington summed up pretty well. i.e. nothing like the rest of this new constituency. It considers itself even more "Essex" (and is in fact far more so) than Dagenham does, despite also being in Greater London since 1965. (The ex-NF fascists of the "Third Way", active in the Hornchurch-Elm Park-Rainham area for the last 20 years campaign most on getting the borough "Havering" renamed "Romford-Hornchurch-Upminster" - there are now strange large granite pillars at Romford Market, each having one of these three towns carved into them, possibly as a preperation for future Nazi torch-lit rallies?)...

What is the actual point of this boundary change? Mind you, since Dagenham's statistically not irrelevant elderly population began to die out en masse in the last 10 years, the entire nature of the constituency and borough changed very quickly. If that happens to Rainham too - and it's not out of the question - this ridiculous new constituency needn't be a total writeoff for Labour, Cruddas-ite or otherwise.

12:58 pm, February 05, 2007

Blogger daggi said...

Sean Fear writes
The Conservatives should lead Labour in the three wards that have been transferred from Havering, and have considerable support in places like Eastbrook and Chadwell Heath.

But it's not that simple. In fact, you could say this Tory activist is being more than economical with the truth.

Chadwell Heath has only Labour councillors for the first time in decades (previously a Ratepayers'/Residents' Association stronghold, and for decades the only non-Labour councillors in Barking and Dagenham), and Eastbrook is a Labour ward, albeit with one Tory Cllr. (probably for the first time in decades, who holds his surgeries outside his ward, and outside the borough, in Romford Conservative Association. Well done!). Saying that, the results in 2006 in that ward were very close.

Rainham and Wennington is quite like Chadwell Heath in some ways. Its three councillors are all "Rainham & Wennington Residents Independents", the three Labour candidates were 4th, 6th and 7th. The Tories stood only one candidate and came 5th.

Hardly "considerable" support.

1:33 pm, February 05, 2007

Anonymous Nick said...

Luke, I suspect that you are thinking too much like a politico and not enough like an ordinary person here.

Voters simply don't think of themselves as demographic or electoral strata, and most won't particularly consider the marginality of their parliamentary seat outside of election time, if at all. Of course they want political parties to cater for their views and interests, but they're as likely to want politicians with values and convictions as anyone else.

They're certainly not going to think "Hang on, I'm a swing voter in a super-marginal seat and Jon Cruddas doesn't think I should dominate the entire political landscape! I am outraged and shall pen a letter of disgust to the Times of London immediately!"

I campaigned in two marginal seats at the last election, which unfortunately we lost - not because of the narrow social segment of Con-Lab swing voters who Liam Byrne addresses, but because the vote in safe Labour wards didn't turn out and large swathes of middle class voters went Lib Dem.

I can't help but suspect that certain people rather misuse electoral arguments in order to push their policy preferences.

2:48 pm, February 05, 2007

Anonymous Al said...

Doesn't the South Hornchurch ward (which is going into the new Dagenham & Rainham seat) have one of the last two Labour councillers in Havering in it?

2:51 pm, February 05, 2007

Blogger Chris Paul said...

People in NOT MARGINAL seats are hearing this stuff and telling us where to get off to.

Obviously we want to get first past the post and preferably 350 seats but we don't want to be srewing over 315 of these and giving tidbits to the other 35 ... or do we?

As Nick said the minutae of policy even to an extent the broad brushes are lost on many voters. They notice the biggest headlines, wars, the price of a pint, potholes and dog poo ... most could stand more Labour policies from the Labour Party!

Blair went too far in 1997 and continued to go farther and that's why we're right out on the right of whatever being Labour possibly is.

The core vote - that alleged 32% or whatever - that we and the Tories each have as instinctive, tribal voters is partly dying out, partly finding themselves ready to dabble, partly finding themselves ready to ship out for good.

Good luck in Rainham and Dagenham. In Manchester Withington - won in 1987 (close in 83) and lost in 2005 - the picture is entirely different.

Anecdotal single constituency "reasons" are hardly enough for a generalisation. Swing voters are excellent if they come down on the right side in the end but the cost of wooing them in both policy and financial terms is a hard one to bear.

Best w

Chris P

2:52 pm, February 05, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

But how will Cruddas find the time to appear in On The Buses as Reg Varney and be Deputy Leader of the Labour Party? I'm all for an integrated transport policy but I don't think this been thought through.

3:18 pm, February 05, 2007

Blogger daggi said...

Al writes
Doesn't the South Hornchurch ward (which is going into the new Dagenham & Rainham seat) have one of the last two Labour councillors in Havering in it?


It might be of interest that the 3 "Independent Rainham Residents" Councillors in Wennington stood as part of an alliance with the "post-fascist" Third Way (see this press release at the home page of Garry Bushell's "English Democrats": http://www.englishdemocrats.org.uk/news.php?subaction=showcomments&id=1146153560&archive=1148983597&start_from=&ucat=4&do=archives ), who, while claiming to support the "National Liberal Party" (i.e. not the LibDems), who regularly have a parliamentary canidate in Havering, also support the BNP "union" Solidarity.

3:26 pm, February 05, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Daggi asks "What is the actual point of this boundary change?"

The point is that areas further into London like Barking are losing population relative to suburban and rural areas (even if not abolutely losing population) - hence they needed extra wards from Dagenham to keep their electorate near the average size, and then Dagenham itself needed a top-up to replace the lost territory.

The same thing is going on across the country - a smaller and smaller % of the population lives in traditional Labour areas.

Which makes a strategy based solely on mobilising our core demographics (which are also shrinking and have been since the 1940s due to de-industrialisation and embourgeoisement) even more suicidal.

If we went back to the electorate with 1980s policies we wouldn't get as "high" a % vote as we got then because the population is now more middle class, and even if we got the same % vote we would get fewer seats because of 2 rounds of boundary changes reflecting mass population movement away from "core" Labour areas.

9:14 pm, February 05, 2007

Blogger Laura said...

Although Rainham and Wennington (and indeed Elm Park) have distinct identities, their electorate have many of the characteristics and preoccupations of the working class core Labour voters of Dagenham. One of the problems in 2005 was that New labour's rhetoric did not properly match their experience and the government had made insufficient impact on the lack of affordable housing, on job insecurity (don't underestimate the impact of the loss of car production at Ford Dagenham and on low level crime and anti-social behaviour. The continuance of means-testing of eligibility for council tax benefit and pension credit were key issues.

We lost Hornchurch narrowly because of an erosion of trust in the Labour government and because enough Labour voters thought it was more important to punish the Prime Minister than to ensure the best MP the constituency had ever had was re-elected. This was despite John Cryer nearly kilimg himself in the effort (and Linda's fantastic work as organiser, of course).

I think Jon Cruddas' strategy of renegaging our disaffected core vote and rebuilding an engaged campaigning party is the right one.

PS Best wishes to Linda

10:51 pm, February 06, 2007


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