Last week Labour published our battleground seat list – the key seats strategy for the 2015 general election. 106 seats right across the country. No no-go areas for Labour. A signal of intent that Labour will campaign tirelessly for a majority Labour government. Along with colleagues from the shadow cabinet and across the parliamentary Labour party, I will be visiting as many of the 106 seats as possible over the coming two years, supporting constituency Labour parties and prospective parliamentary candidates to secure Labour gains from all of our political opponents. It is vital that we all give as much as we can to win these seats.
Last Thursday I visited Carlisle, until May 2010 a Labour seat since 1964. I spent the day with Labour’s brilliant new PPC Lee Sherriff. A breath of fresh air, Lee was selected in September and has all the energy and enthusiasm that Labour needs to win again in Carlisle. Regaining the council in 2012 under the leadership of Joe Hendry, Labour has an excellent springboard from which to overturn the 853 Tory majority.
We visited two schools during the day, Newtown School and Petteril Bank Community School. It was great to have the chance to hear from Fiona Manuel and Jose Hodgkins (headteachers respectively at the two schools) about their concerns on school funding and on their aspirations for the future of education in this country.
Together Lee and Joe are building the foundations for the political battle that we face in winning back Carlisle for Labour. With the crucial county elections in May, they will be kept busy, with an eye on the longer-term objective of May 2015.
During my visit to Carlisle I launched Labour North’s regional campaign, targeting gains in Redcar – where the local party has already selected Anna Turley as its PPC – and Stockton South (not yet selected), both Labour seats until May 2010.
In many constituencies in May 2010, despite a national vote share of 29 per cent (our second lowest since 1918), Labour defied the odds. Labour held seats that were expected to fall to the Conservatives, including eight of the 90 Tory target seats. Key to this was excellent candidates and well-worked strategies. If we are to replicate these successes and turn seats we don’t hold into gains, we all need to redouble our efforts and be disciplined at prioritising our time and energies into supporting local parties and candidates in those target seats.
We have so far selected about a third of candidates in our target seats, with selections taking place for the remaining seats in the year ahead. We know that Labour can’t compete with the Tories’ war chest. But we know that seats defied Ashcroft’s millions and that the same strategies applied elsewhere will be what makes the difference in 841 days’ time.
Stephen Twigg is Labour’s shadow education secretary. He tweets @StephenTwigg
Progressive centre-ground Labour politics does not come for free.
Our work depends on you.