Living in a safe seat has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that the pressure of campaigning is never really felt in the same way. Freed from the immediate threat of losing strongholds such as Stoke-on-Trent, we ought to be able to build a real relationship with the electorate from a position of strength within the constituency.
Sadly the reality of the situation is a long way from this. While I know that the next election is going to be difficult for our party we never really feel it. Too many of our local representatives choose complacency over commitment when it comes to communicating with the electorate, content in the knowledge that a general election swing will carry them over the line regardless of their own efforts. As an active Labour supporter who thinks that no matter how safe the seat is we need to go out and talk to voters, this can be incredibly frustrating.
Progress Political Weekend this year really put the general election into perspective in a real way, and to better understand the challenges we face on the frontline. Listening to Labour’s parliamentary candidates like Sally Keeble and Jessica Asato discuss their fight to win the argument for Labour showed the scale of the challenge. But it also showed how Labour party candidates across the country are driving change within their constituencies and readying the Labour party for the fight ahead.
Doing this is going to be no easy challenge. We still face the upward battle to win the trust of the British public with the economy; the single biggest issue that we face in this election. We do need to be hawkish in tackling the deficit, putting forward policies that are costed and credible for the current economic climate. It is all too easy for opposition parties to promise the earth and then when they get into power deliver nothing; doing this would not only damage the reputation of our party, but only succeed to further increase distrust in politicians and voter apathy. We need to put forward a genuine, credible alternative to the coalition’s failed economic policies; one which has fiscal responsibility at its heart, and which recognises the necessity of strong growth and a balanced, high-skilled economy in delivering both living standards and economic security.
The evidence Spencer Livermore highlighted outlining that Labour’s values are largely shared by the British public should give us confidence. Confidence that we are in line with what the electorate believes and wants but also the confidence to pursue bold and progressive policies, to build on the work of the last Labour government and to develop the ideas of the cooperative movement; empowering people with the tools they need to help themselves and their communities.
This election will not be a walk over. It is going to be a battle, and a battle that the political leadership in Labour strongholds does not always fully appreciate. However, Progress Political Weekend this year brought to life in a very real way the challenges that I will be passing onto my constituency. In doing this I not only hope to take these lessons back to my own CLP but I look forward to campaigning in the 15 key seats in my region to do my bit in ensuring that we return a Labour government.
Carrie Martin works for a Labour member of parliament and is a member of Progress
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