Memo to the PM
Dear Prime Minister,
there are rumours circulating that you are considering 25 March as a General Election polling day.
I would urge you not to go for that date and instead to go for 6 May.
There's one simple reason. There will be local government elections, whatever the date of the General Election, on 6 May for every seat in every London borough, for 1/3 of seats in every metropolitan borough, 1/3 of seats in 20 unitary authorities, and in 78 district councils.
A quick look at the list (http://www.gwydir.demon.co.uk/uklocalgov/elec2010.htm) shows this actually implies election of councillors in almost all of the major urban areas in England, i.e. exactly the places where Labour has the best chance of getting councillors elected.
Holding the General Election on the same day as these local elections would mean that turnout in the local elections would jump from the mid-30%s in most authorities to General Election levels of 50-60% or more if the General Election turnout goes up compared to 2005.
This is good for democracy but ought also to be particularly good for the Labour Party as our supporters have a lower propensity to turnout than Tories for socio-economic reasons i.e. the extra 15-25% of people who would vote in the local elections if they were on General Election day would disproportionately consist of Labour voters.
Thus, even if the General Election saw a Labour defeat, scheduling it for the same day as the locals could increase the number of Labour councilors elected dramatically. There is a proven linkage between the number of councillors a party has and the health of its local activist base so this would help ensure Labour started to recover faster organisationally.
In contrast, if the General Election was held in February or March and we were unlucky enough to lose, then the May 6 local elections would be likely to be a rout for Labour. Turnout would collapse as people won't want to vote twice within months. Levels of campaigning by Labour activists would collapse if our morale was low because we had just had a General Election defeat. Labour supporters would be particularly unlikely to turnout if we had just lost the national election. We know this because in 1992 council elections were held just after we lost the General Election and we got thrashed.
As Leader of the Labour Party you are not only responsible for trying to maximise the number of MPs we win, but also for rebuilding our strength in local government. Long term the two are linked.
Please do the right thing by Labour's members, supporters and councillors and council candidates by holding the General Election on the day already scheduled for council elections, 6 May.