Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Government – our ability to convert argument into action

0.7 per cent.

Ask my friend Ally McGovern MP why this is an important figure.

Here is what she will say: first, it is one of our proud legacies from our time in government: Labour’s overseas aid promise to the poorest communities in the world now going through parliament and still opposed by Tory members of parliament.

Second, it is the margin by which she was returned as the Labour MP for Wirral South in the 2010 general election. A hard-fought victory to be proud of, the lessons of which are crucial for the next three months.

We suffered a historic defeat in the 2010 election that means we have to defy history to win in 2015. I believe we can win and seats such as Wirral South where we defied the odds show us how.

Progress highlighted that route map to victory in their Organising to Win pamphlet. And we should learn from them because they hold our ability to govern, to lead, to deliver change.

Change for the people we represent and progress for our country. I am proud to serve as Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central and to be the education spokesman for our great party. But I did not come into politics to be a spokesman.

I came into politics because I want to play my part in changing Britain. Before entering politics I was fortunate to enjoy a career in broadcasting and academia and as much as I enjoyed those years, I was frustrated by the inability to lead, unable to convert argument into action.

As an history lecturer, I met young people who had to overcome extraordinary odds to make it to university. And, while I was always impressed by their commitment and grit, it frustrated me to know that there were tens of thousands of others who would have relished the opportunity of higher education but were held back by poverty, poor expectations or an inadequate education.

I am in politics to change that.

To be in government is the opportunity to reform and to deliver. It is a well-used line, but no good day in opposition can come close to even a bad day in government.

And that is why I am incredibly energised by the upcoming campaign.

I stood to be an MP so that we could deliver greater access to universities for kids from working-class backgrounds and more high-quality apprenticeships for young people from all backgrounds; end the plight of low-skill, low wage, zero-hour employment and the insecurities that brings for individuals and families; and protect sure start services for young families that battle inequality in the early years.

But to deliver that in government, we need to win where it matters. So, what did we learn from those seats in 2010 that defied the odds to return a Labour MP?

In Wirral South the ingredients were a great and authentic local candidate, combined with a rigorous data-driven campaign. In Birmingham Edgbaston a pioneering volunteer recruitment strategy came into its own. But at the heart of these campaigns were the supporters and volunteers who will again determine the outcome of this election, seat by seat.

Because, while the national campaign is delivering a vision for Britain under a future Labour government, it is on the ground in the marginals that this campaign will be won and lost.

Now Progress is putting the theory into practice with the launch of Operation Flight this Saturday which is just one of the ways this organisation will be doing all it can to ensure a Labour victory in May.

The pollsters are pretty clear about one thing in this election: uniform swing is a thing of the past. Variations in our battleground seats will be the rule rather than the exception.

It is the contact rate returns, our army of dedicated organisers, the recruitment and training of volunteers, the effective use of data – these are the tried-and-tested components of the campaign. It will be the organisation at constituency level that matters the most in the weeks and months ahead. I have seen it for myself in places like Thurrock, Redcar and Warrington South, where Polly Billington, Anna Turley and Nick Bent are leading brilliant campaigns.

On Saturday I will be joining Dawn Butler and a team of campaigners from across the Labour movement to take to the doors in Brent Central as we build towards taking back the seat from the Liberal Democrats. It is part of Progress’s day of campaigning in nine seats across the country where the first-term incumbent MPs are standing down.

Each individual jumping ship will have his or her own reason for not contesting in the election in May. But it is the sign of a tired government and political party that so many – in particular the 2010 intake – are stepping down from the contest. It too is the sign of a political party that once in power, does not know what it wants to achieve.

To them we say ‘Stand aside. We are not here to make up the numbers. We are here to change our country for a better, progressive future.’ And as we begin the final furlong, it falls on all of us in the Labour movement to retain a laser-like focus on one thing: winning for Labour, delivering for Britain.

Join us in a seat near you. Find out more and join us on Operation Flight here


Tristram Hunt MP is shadow secretary of state for education

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Tristram Hunt MP

is MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central and a vice-chair of Progress


  • May 2010 is history. Whilst doing what I can [assist and donate] where possible for Labour Movement [not specific MP PPC] I am interested in politics not overly obsessed by them or it. Like millions of other Labour supporters I am interested in what you can do for me on a quid pro quo basis as it relates to my family and friends. History is a good reminder. The future is an unfamiliar scenario to 99.99% of us; that’s why we vote for the MP who seems to have the best possible crystal balls available at that time. What will happen to me and family over next 5 years is more important to me than what happened over the last 5 years. Purely selfish motive called survival.
    I never saw the “Organise to Win” Pamphlet [Sept 2010] and just had a quick glance and noticed that the 2015 election was barely touched on; maybe an update from Douglas?
    And will someone up @LHQ kindly explain in words of one syllable why Tories were allowed to gain such forward, positive momentume in their GE Campaign by sneaking the German Chancellor in just before the election? Is either Ed aware she is here? Will they have a meeting?
    If Crosby can ‘mastermind’ this coup [maybe] he is deservant of a bonus. Where is Axelrod?
    This pip has just squeaked.

  • 11%.
    Percentage UK population living within the M25 orbital. London is key to a ‘win’.
    Tory’s next leader, Gemini-Boris knows this.

  • ‘Ability’ is a strong word – one that upholds the strengths of a CV and its proven case for achieving such goals as it represents clients… or constituents. ‘Promise’ and ‘Reinvention’ are better words that need to be used by politicians and scrutinised via public engagement – REAL folk with ‘ability’ and ‘goals’ and a desperate need for both policy and practice to back them up.
    I suggest that the public are not simply tired of government, they are tired of a political SYSTEM in desperate need of CHANGE to represent ALL the democratic benchmarks that create FAIRNESS and JUSTICE for ALL. Where is this system?

    Alex Salmond did something rare – even special – when it comes to politics or politicians most recently – FAR beyond the expectations of Whitehall elites. Salmond, put forward a REAL opportunity for the Scottish people enabling engagement, debate and scrutiny. While, I am in no doubt that, strategically, Salmond and his team planned many steps ahead – should he lose the debate and the vote – the Scottish people felt they were delivered a RARE opportunity to vote on independence of future or a seemingly stagnation of powers from Whithall. The Scottish people voted for the latter. However, was Salmond BOLD in his strategy – later resigning from his post? Would we expect any Whitehall politician do deliver such Boldness? Isn’t Cameron asking the English public to give him another term in office before he gives such an opportunity for a vote on our relationship with the EU? Many will say, “Cameron’s had 4 years to develop a Boldness that mirrors that of Salmond.. and give us all a Vote. But, her chose not to do so. Why?”

    So, ‘converting argument into action’ – sound good in a headline. However, in order for the public to feel empowered by it all, politicians have to do what they have always run away from – engage with ‘ordinary’ members of the public in a TV debate, acknowledge and understand the failings, challenges and goals people seek, and then turn this into action. Now, I wonder why this has never been put into ACTION?

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