Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

We will win hearts and minds in 2015

What can we say about last week’s elections?

The key test for any party is: how well are we doing where we need to gain seats?

So look at the Tories. In the key marginal seats they need to defend –Crawley, Croydon and Amber Valley – they lost.

And in the seats they need to win fromLabour – like Walsall North, Derby North, Wirral South, and Bolton West –they’re doing worse now than in 2010.

Now look at our results. The only party to gain both seats and councils. And in our key marginals – Carlisle, Lincoln, Enfield North, Peterborough, Harlow, Hastings, Hornsey and Wood Green and South Swindon – if last week’s results were repeated we would win.

So, those who preached doom and gloom after the 22 May are wrong.

But those who think the next election’s in the bag; no it isn’t.

Last week showed it can be won, butthere’s a fight to be had…

2015 was never going to be a walk over election.

And the old swingometer won’t work any more. Four party politics – at least for now. Local and regional differences. All of that was played out in the elections.

I feel for those Labour activists where we fell short last week.

I know we have the best candidates, the best organisers and the largest grassrootsorganisation of any party.

And we knocked on seven million doors in this campaign.

So, to recover the ground in those seats,and beyond, we must make our better organisation count for more over the next 11 months.

My challenge to all our activists is to strengthen the bond between us and our supporters, including those who did not vote last week.

Invest in that relationship.

That means keeping in touch with them, on a regular basis. Listening, talking, -rebutting the lies our opponents will tell–and respecting what they have to say.

Frank Dobson tells a great story about listening …

His predecessor as MP for Holborn and St Pancras, Lena Jeger, was a candidate in the 1950s.

The burning issue of the day was the proposed post-war rearmament of West Germany, which Lena strongly opposed.

One night, Lena was canvassing one of the constituency’s many blocks of council flats. Stepping into the lift, she noticed that it smelt strongly of urine. At the first doorstep she introduced herself and launched into her prepared pitch about the folly of rearming the Germans.

The woman listened patiently, and then asked whether she’d come up in the lift.  Yes said Lena. The woman asked: ‘Did you smell the horrible pong of piss?’  Yes, said Lena. ‘So what are you going to do about it?’ she demanded.

Lena explained that she wasn’t a councillor and couldn’t really do anything.’Well, dear,’ said the lady, ‘all I can say is that if you can’t do anything about people pissing in the lift, I don’t see how you’re going to sort out the Germans.’

A similar story could be heard today, in any neighbourhood, town or city.

Keep it in mind.  We have to tackle the issues close to home, the small things, if we hope to make them feel that voting makes a difference.

So what else did we learn last week?

There is a deep sense of discontent with the way the country is run and politics generally. The trust issue.

In some places, Ukip successfully reflected people’s anger and frustration; some at Europe, some about immigration, some just anti-politics generally.

I heard voters saying on TV, and on the doorstep: ‘I want our country back.’  That is a concern about change, a change they feel has left them behind.

I know that the answer to their feelings is not for Labour to try to mimic Ukip’s prescription.

And that means Labour doing what is right, not just what is popular.

As Chris Leslie reaffirmed this week,Labour will end the deficit.

But Ed Miliband’s promise, is to ensure no one is left behind, recovery helps us all, no community is ignored…

Ed’s One Nation message is all about fair play:

where businesses pay their taxes, don’t exploit migrant labour and where they bring workers in from abroad,they will have an apprenticeship scheme along side.

Fair rules: when it comes to things like welfare, selling energy or coming into our country.

Fair rewards: a country where hard work pays, responsibility is rewarded and everyone shares in its success.

And a country with fair chances: where you don’t have to be born into privilege to get on, to have a secure roof over your head and your life chances aren’t defined by the postcode you were born in or what makes you who you are.

And when even the Prince of Wales and the governor of the Bank England are talking about inclusive capitalism, we know Ed Miliband has struck a chord.

A vision of a Britain with fair play at its heart.

Now we must play our part in bringing that vision to the homes and doorsteps across Britain.

Believe in the justice of our message.

And we will win hearts and minds in 2015.


Caroline Flint MP is shadow secretary of state for energy and climate change. She tweets @CarolineFlintMP

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Caroline Flint MP

is Labour MP for Don Valley and a former Europe minister and former home office minister

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