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.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It's all about the marginals

Politicalbetting.com has just published an Angus Reid poll that shows that although the gap in the national polls is closing, the Tories are getting a 4.5% higher swing in the key marginal seats: http://politicalbetting.com/index.php/archives/2010/02/24/pbar-poll-has-the-swing-45-pc-bigger-in-the-marginals/

It's less the overall figures that concern me - Angus Reid consistently show a far higher national Tory lead than all the other pollsters but like the others, the trend is towards Labour. What is concerning is that the Tories are still making more traction where it counts.

This is partly explicable by the Ashcroft funding of very intensive "long campaigns" in Tory target seats - though an ICM poll in January suggested Labour's key seat campaign was holding its own organisationally and had reached a similar percentage of marginal seat voters to the Tories' campaigning.

But it's also political and about positioning. The key seat swing voters are not typical of all voters, they have particular concerns that need to be calibrated and addressed if you want to win. They are not even typical of each other as they comprise many different types of voter, not just some generic stereotype like "Motorway Man","Worcester Woman" etc.

It's not fair, but the electoral system we have delivers the national decision to this small group of voters. I deplore the way First-Past-the-Post does this, but until we can change the system we have to understand and address the policy preferences - indeed sometimes prejudices - of swing voters in suburbia, seaside resorts and middle-sized middle England towns if we are going to get in and deliver as well on the complementary - not necessarily mutually exclusive - policy needs of places that (hopefully) always return Labour MPs like Hackney where I live.

So I hope Ed Miliband, who I understand is currently drafting our manifesto, will ensure that whilst it has broad themes and rafts of policy that will energise our activists and deliver on the needs of our base of consistent Labour voters, will also be peppered through with policies that resonate strongly with the key voters in the key seats where we currently, if the polls are to be believed, still lag too far behind the Tories.

I believe that we can win. I'm not sure I did believe that last year. But the Manifesto and the tone of the campaign will be decisive. We have to have a policy content and a language and mood to the campaign that wins back the critical voters in the critical seats.


Blogger Hughes Views said...

I wonder if we'll look back from 2020 (obvious joke omitted) after ten years "of Tory misrule" (I guess you're too young to remember Wilson's favourite phrase in the 1964 campaign) and regret not reforming the voting system when the chance was there.

I hope not.

Although FPTP makes campaigning in a marginal seat a lot more exciting than in a safe one, that doesn't seem a terribly good reason to retain it.

Its great redeeming feature is the strong link between all MP and their constituents but apart from that it's pretty well rubbish.

5:30 pm, February 24, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Should have reformed it when you won a landslide then, shouldn't you? Looks a bit crap to be converted to reform at the 11th hour, although I appreciate that Luke at least has been consistent on this.

6:38 pm, February 24, 2010

Anonymous Vote Boff said...

I see that Andrew Boff has promised not to take a wage or expenses if he is elected Mayor of Hackney in May. He has said he expects the councillors to all do the same saving the council £325,000 per year. What a great idea and he for one has got my vote. Better pull your socks up Luke if you want to keep yours and your wifes expenses.

8:57 pm, February 24, 2010

Blogger Bill said...

Vote Boff,

what an undemocratic idea - elected representatives have a positive duty to claim legitimate expenses, else we'd all have to rely solely on the well heeled to fill elected posts. The means must exist for the poorest in the land to be able to take up these posts.

9:11 am, February 25, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill said
"The means must exist for the poorest in the land to be able to take up these posts."

Like Mandelson with his £20k watch and the Milibands - sons of Marxist academic and now somehow very wealthy?
Like Jack Dromey who sidestepped the all wimmin short lists?
And like Shaun Woodward the richest man in the House of Commons?

Bring back grammer schools and university maintenance grants - they did more to get the bright working class into positions of power and influence in culture and politics than anything since.

9:29 am, February 25, 2010

Blogger Bill said...

Educational attainment has nothing to do with representation, someone with no GCSEs should be able to become an MP, if that is the electorate's wish...

10:14 am, February 25, 2010

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Dear Vote Boff

Does Mr Boff take the £52,910 salary he is entitled to as a GLA member (NB he is a GLA member with no constituency duties as elected through the list)?

If he does that explains his willingness to be Mayor or Councillor for free.

Either way he seems to view being Mayor, i.e. running a £1bn organisation, as a part time role.

As far as I am aware all the current Tory councillors take their allowances. It is odd that he thinks Cabinet members - a full time job - should be unpaid - but does not indicate that backbench cllrs - a part time role - should give up their allowances.
Or is he pledging to resign from the GLA?

10:16 am, February 25, 2010

Anonymous Disco Biscuit said...

Isn't there something more than a little bit embarassing, Luke, about being happy to enjoy the benefits of FPTP when it works to your advantage, but whinging about how unfair it is the moment you're behind in the polls and about to lose to a crushing defeat?

11:33 am, February 25, 2010

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I've never supported FPTP. Ever.

I've been a member of Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform since I discovered it existed in 1990, and was on its executive for many years.

At one time I took considerable political damage inside the Labour Party for this stance - e.g. being accused of "loving the Lib Dems" (which is quite ironic given what I actually think of them).

11:46 am, February 25, 2010

Blogger Andrew Boff said...

Just for the sake of clarity - the Mayor has no say in the allowances of Councillors. She/he does however have the ability to decline the salary and rule that the cabinet members do the same.
I do get paid as an assembly member and I think that's quite enough to be taking from the taxpayer. I have the lowest expenses of any assembly member (£0) and that will continue if elected Mayor.
The political class like to tell us that you need a big salary to be able to tell the executive what the people want. Everyone else except them know this to be complete baloney.

10:14 am, March 02, 2010


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