So we’re more than £20 million in debt. £16m in the red with a further £11m in loan repayments.
Short money of £4.5m a year will help the shadow cabinet and their spads with their transition from government to opposition, but we won’t be able to touch a penny of it for party campaigning or reducing the debt.
So Labour’s going to have to think smarter and, well, cheaper if it’s going have any impact against the Tory-Lib Dem government.
But here’s the good news – campaigning isn’t expensive as it used to be.
All were set up with free online petition software, Facebook groups and simple email mailers. They cost us next to nothing in capital costs.
But all three got results – the £1b payout to bankers was slashed to £175 million, the private members bill was quietly dropped and Andrew Lansley delivered a u-turn (though still no mention on whether the number of nurses will be retained to deal with the calls.)
Go Fourth also created the first Cameron airbrush ad. Clifford Singer was inspired to do his own, set up mydavidcameron.com and a million pound ad campaign was destroyed by the public with wit, good nature and photoshop.
Unfortunately, our greatest idea was poorly executed. I’d suggested back in February that Labour should crowdsource its ad campaign. As Peter Mandelson highlights in his memoir, there was just no money for a traditional poster campaign.
But I argued that you’d still get the coverage – especially through mainstream media – if you did digital posters.
Sadly, we got the wrong kind of coverage because Labour chose the wrong poster – though you must point the figure at Saatchi and Saatchi who helped shape the idea into the final creative. A concept that pins an important political message on a likeable character was never going to work.
In fact I’ll go against the poster’s message completely. We should go back to the 80s.
Philip Gould’s shadow communications agency was revolutionary for its time. Set up in 1986, the cream of the advertising and marketing world gave their time for free or next to nothing to shape Labour’s comms plans.
24 years on, we must assemble a similar body to tackle a completely different media, political and cultural landscape.
This body – let’s call it Creative Labour – should develop a truly integrated offering for the party that works across all platforms and be answerable to the general secretary and the leader’s office. It should help to develop engaging content, create useful apps and suggest better ways to engage with the 30 million plus people already using social media in the UK.
But Creative Labour should be much more inclusive than the SCA. Certain politicians viewed it with suspicion because it was seen as elitist.
And if mydavidcameron taught us anything, it’s that someone will always have a better line than you.
So there should be input not only from the best creative minds in advertising, design, PR and digital, but from members and supporters alike. And it’s the latter who have the potential to be the lethal rebuttal machine that Labour really needs.
May 2010 wasn’t the social media election we thought it was going to be – but the next one will be.
And while Labour’s new media wonk, Sue McMillan, and her team created miracles on a very limited budget, they will need more resources and support now that we’re in opposition.
The party also remarkably doesn’t have a dedicated director focused on driving online, marketing and public relations and developing the big strategic campaigns. Hopefully the new leader will find someone to fill this crucial role and pull all these strands together.
That’s because the best thing about the leadership election is that all candidates have actually learnt how to campaign online and offline.
After four and half months, we now have five prospective shadow cabinet members who know how to best deploy supporters, build campaign capacity and use social media to spread the message.
It will require us decentralising power, trusting those outside the circle and reaching out to everyone to pitch in.
If we’re prepared to do that, we can use crowdsourcing to turn Labour back into the feared campaign machine it once was.
Only this time, it won’t be driven by spin doctors, but by the party’s committed members and supporters.
Right, who’s up for a brainstorm?
David Prescott is former campaign director for Go Fourth and campaign consultant