The analysis of the 2010 general election showed a very strong correlation between the level of contact with voters and the result. There was also a very strong positive correlation between the result and having a local organiser. That’s why Ian McNicol’s efforts to put more local organisers in place need our support.
Encouraging members to go out and engage with their neighbours and with the wider community can make all the difference. And this is not just about the cynical harvesting of votes. Talking to voters is the way to build their trust and to ensure the best understanding of where Labour wants to take the country.
Cameron and Osborne will tell the country that they have cut public spending but that the problems were worse than they thought. They will tell people that the Tories need an overall majority in the House of Commons to finish the job. We will counter that argument by saying that it’s austerity and the lack of jobs and growth that have made the economy worse but the Tories will have the majority of the media on their side. They will also have more money to spend in each constituency than we will, as they did in 2010. In order to win the crucial argument about the economy, we have to be heard and we cannot rely on being heard using national media alone.
In my constituency, Sefton Central, we knock on doors at least once a week. People are used to seeing us. We ask what they want to talk about and try to help with any issues which they raise. As a result, most people are receptive when we talk to them about the economy or about key local issues like protecting valuable green space against developers who give money to the Tory party.
Many people trust us because they see us as part of their community. In Sefton, Labour won control of the council for the first time ever this year. We gained every seat in my constituency, three from the Tories and four from the Lib Dems including three seats that had never had a Labour Councillor before. In Sefton Central, we have given people a reason to vote Labour where before we had not. This works in parliamentary elections as well as in local ones. But such success can only come through good organisation. We need to create a campaigning culture where Labour members and supporters go out each week to listen to people and where we take up issues and local campaigns on behalf of the people we represent.
Local paid organisers are an important step but they cannot do all the work. Members and other supporters, especially our friends in the trades unions need to do the leg work if we are to be successful and the organisers should make sure that our volunteers have the training and support they need to do the job. By the way, it’s great fun going out talking to people with a group of like minded friends.
If the organisation is strong and if we are seen to work hard on behalf of our communities, then people will give us the benefit of the doubt rather than the Tories when they come to vote. The next general election will not be won just on the back of good organisation. But good organisation will deliver dozens of extra seats which may make all the difference.