The latest poll (Survation) puts Labour on +3 and 6 points behind the Conservatives.
As the campaign draws to a close, I thought it would be good to share some thoughts on improving our chances on June 8th.
With ten days remaining (including polling day), I’ve drawn-up ten areas we should focus on:
- Negative press. There’s a lot of it. But indulging this with widely-advertised defences of Jeremy Corbyn is not the solution. A defence of these issues is an advertisement for them. We shouldn’t publicise negative or damaging headlines without, a. having a strong defence and, b. unless the story is so significant or damaging that it won’t go away. (The danger is that we blow a small issue out of proportion and create a headline which didn’t exist beforehand, adding fuel to a largely insignificant fire). Case-in-point: defending Labour’s IFS figures. No one really cares. The Conservatives have their own IFS issues. Leave the defence to Corbyn, McDonnell and others. It’s part of a media narrative which the average person doesn’t particularly care about. It’s not a huge issue among voters and – if we talk about it in our social circles – we turn it into an issue which people “should” be worried about, instead of talking about the £10 minimum wage, renationalising the railways, protecting pensioners and scrapping tuition fees (i.e., policies with real implications for people’s lives).
- Issues. As above, the issues we choose to speak about – on social media, at work, with friends, family and others – shape the debate for those closest to us. By choosing issues the mainstream media “misses” (like those above), allows us to run another narrative, giving people something different to think about. Spending our time defending Labour against perceived shortfalls and policy criticisms is fine – but it is a complete waste of time if people don’t care about the policies being criticised. So let’s focus on policies people like; and expose the Conservative ones they don’t.
- Attack. When promoting our own policies we need to expose Theresa May’s actions in government and the Conservative manifesto. Example: Labour’s commitment to pensioners by protecting the triple-lock, winter fuel allowance, bus passes, etc., and the Conservatives doing the opposite by scrapping the triple-lock and removing the winter fuel allowance.
- Shaping the debate. Allow the debate to be shaped by Labour policies – not Conservative ones. We shouldn’t have to answer Conservative proposals. We need to shape the debate through our own policies; giving our policies more air-time and forcing the Conservatives to talk about their own manifesto, which acts against the interests of ordinary working people.
- Criticism. It’s important to criticise. But it must be constructive. Over the past two years criticism has – at times – been made for criticism’s sake, with no real aim other than attacking Labour and Jeremy Corbyn. So when we criticse Labour publicly, there needs to be a good reason for doing so. Much like the points on negative press, a negative story is a negative story: the point is whether it’s important enough to publicise and feed into a pre-existing (or creating a new) negative narrative.
- Association. No ballot paper will list the “Tories” as an option. They will list the “Conservatives.” So, when we criticise the Conservative Party, we call them precisely that: the Conservative Party. Theresa May is not toxic enough as a brand (although she’s certainly losing ground here). The Conservative Party is. So, when we talk about Theresa May, we need to talk about the Conservative Party; and when we talk about the Conservative Party, we need to talk about Theresa May. We need to make these two subjects inextricably linked. The Conservative campaign has spent months separating Theresa May from the Conservatives. It’s fundamentally important that we re-draw the link at every given opportunity.
- Translation. The language we use has a big influence on how we’re perceived. Fortunately, Twitter’s 140 character limit forces us into shorter. sharper. stronger sentences; and this is an asset. It’s why Donald Trump loves it and was so successful using this in his campaign. In the past, Corbyn supporters achieved strong results by dominating social media. It seems pretty obvious Labour supporters continue to dominate Twitter and Instagram, judging by social media poll results (recording significantly higher vote shares than mainstream polling). This is partly due to a greater presence of young people on social media than the largest voting blocks in the country: the over 60s. Facebook is used more widely across all age-groups, and presents a different opportunity: the space to write longer pieces, share more material and make issues like maternity/paternity rights, workers rights, the NHS, retirement and social care the centre of our narrative, given cross-generational appeal. So: different subjects on different social media, different subjects with different people, different subjects on different occasions. Example: free school meals and free childcare to new parents. Triple-lock pensions and winter fuel allowance for your grandparents.
- Campaigning. At the start of the campaign, Labour was focused on retaining seats, rather than gaining them. Now, with the polls narrowing and a more uniformed single-digit lead for the Conservatives, Labour should be targeting current Conservative-held seats across the country, with margins of under 10,000, giving us 123 Conservative seats to play-for; 64 of which have majorities of just 5,000. (I’ll write more on this later this week, ranking target seats in order of priority).
- Boris. Don’t talk about him. Whatever you think about “Bojo,” he remains the Conservative Party’s most likeable export, despite a steady decline in popularity. His job is to create chaos and detract from criticism, deflecting the real issues plaguing the Conservative Party. As he demonstrated in the run-up to last night’s “Battle for Downing Street,” Johnson’s job is to remove the heat from Theresa May when she comes under scrutiny. We must not allow this. Don’t give him the space. Starve him of air-time. Turn-over your TV channel. Ignore his incessant Tweeting and commentary in the press. He’s not worth it. And it damages us.
- Polling day. Even the smallest details can affect voters on polling day. So here’s what I suggest: if you can, wear red (preferably a red shirt). Be friendly. Smile. Your red shirt implies you’re voting Labour. Your smile says you’ve got something to be happy about. Your friendliness makes you trustworthy. Your manner exudes confidence. We must appear strong – and we must appear stable – on polling day. Details matter. Image counts.
I hope these points have been useful. There are a lot of things we tend to overlook; a lot of information which doesn’t occur to us. But this election could depend on even the smallest of details; and I’m not willing to risk losing it because someone wore a blue shirt to the ballot box.