Lessons from Oxford
Well done to Antonia Bance and her colleagues in the Oxford Labour Party for following up their against-the-national-tide gains on May 1st with a big piece in the Guardian today by Compassite John Harris explaining how they did it.
The key points are worth repeating - and are exactly in line with the causes of similar against-the-trend success in Hackney and Lambeth in 2006 - and need to be picked up and disseminated by the Party nationally:
- "infectious enthusiasm" - basically you need activists and candidates who want to win and are prepared to make their own luck whatever the national state-of-play
- "Labour's recent wins took in both semi-detached suburbia and the kind of hard-bitten areas, in which a lengthy waiting-list for social housing - Oxford has worst English rate of homelessness outside London - are by far the biggest issue" - no nonsense about ignoring certain segments of the electorate - you need messages that resonate with our core vote and swing voters
- "really, really hard work"
- "a pretty united Labour group that's quite diverse ... and [is] from a fair spread across the party."
- "on the doorstep, we're more progressive than the Lib Dems and the Tories. The Lib Dems fought this election on lower council tax. We fought on more investment in play schemes, a living wage, and making sure that people felt safe in their neighbourhoods"
- "messages that have to be that bit more optimistic."
- "You need to have a positive message about social justice and inclusion. And they're a real blind spot for the Lib Dems. When was the last time you heard a senior Lib Dem talk about childcare policy? You never do."
- "the dire need, particularly in given the fragile state of the economy, for the government to break out of its current introspection and rediscover what remains of Labour's soul"
- "We're the progressive option. We're the 'Labour party'. We're going to end child poverty by 2020, so let's go out there and tell the country why we're going to do it, how we're going to do it, how it's going to make a difference ... Let's end some pensioner poverty as well ... That's what it's all about. That's why the Labour party was founded. So let's stop being so bloody timid."
"Labour's campaign saw a visit from Brown to Blackbird Leys, the estate that has long been a byword for the city's more troubled aspects. "We like having Gordon here," says Bance. "I genuinely mean that. Gordon's my guy.""
At last, some people that actually know how to win elections, putting forward some positive lessons about how we should do that. What a refreshing contrast from the "we're all doomed" stuff we've been reading elsewhere in the same paper for weeks. And what a nice surprise to see John Harris, of all people, write such a balanced article.