The fightback fundraiser kitemark can help free CLPs from central command and control

by Peter Watt

The next election is going to be tight.  We all know that the polls are in our favour at the moment but in all likelihood they will be considerably closer come the start of the short campaign in 2015.  And along with death and taxes the only certainty in life is that elections cost a fortune.  In fact if it wasn’t for the occasional aberration (possibly in 1997 and definitely in 2005) then the other certainty is that the Tories significantly outspend Labour at elections.  If you take the 2010 election then the Tories spent £18m while Labour spent £8m!

Now let’s assume, quite reasonably, that Labour is still pretty broke at the next election.  Let’s also assume that the unpopularity of the Tories impacts on their funding a bit and that Labour is conversely able to raise a bit more.  But given this, it is an odds on assumption that the Tories will still outspend Labour once again.

And in a tight race, extra funds in the right places could really make a difference to the outcome.  Now we could sit around and hope that the parties sort out the issue of party funding in time for the next election.  But if a Labour victory depends on that, then then we are screwed.

Traditionally the Labour Party raises most of its money centrally.  That’s not to say this money isn’t raised locally because it clearly is.  But the bulk is raised centrally with the big trade union money and high-value donations going into the central campaign pot.

And then marginal seats are effectively subsidised in the long months leading up to the short campaign by the central pot.  With the marginal seats being expected to raise a fair old whack themselves of course.

Other local parties support the efforts in marginal seats by sending in activists and by not receiving as much central subsidy.  So a relatively large and professional central and regional campaign team ensures direct mail, leaflets, staff and so on is all targeted on the marginal seats.

In the 2010 election to some extent this model began to change.  Through necessity a greater responsibility for fundraising was passed to local parties.  The central campaign team became much more of an enabler rather than a direct delivery service.  Having too much money in a campaign can mean that a campaign becomes a little flabby and dull.  It is easier to throw money (or another leaflet) at a problem than to be creative.  The silver lining of not having enough money was a lot more local autonomy and innovation with things like social media and targeted direct mail.

At the next election Labour must go further.

Marginal seat campaigns must be more creative and innovative and should be supported from the centre but be locally driven.  And greater use must be made of harnessing the strength of the wider party and indeed supporters.  The online telephone bank has been a fantastic innovation that has allowed activists from across the country to support marginal seats activity from their own home.

But the central party cannot create the opportunities for innovation alone.  In fact, if the party is to develop a stronger culture of locally driven creative campaigning then it will need to develop a greater sense of autonomy from the centre.  It should be a partnership not a parent-child relationship.

So we need to develop a whole variety of different ways that right across the party we can target support in the marginal seats.

For that reason I strongly welcome the fightback fundraiser kitemark initiative from Progress and Southern Front.  It is a very simple initiative that allows local parties from anywhere in the country to raise money for marginal seats as they also raise money for their own local party.  All they need to do is choose an early selected PPC (who are all in marginal seats) or a marginal seat in the southern regions that they want to help.

Then when they are organising a fundraiser for their own area they can decide whether to donate either at least £2 per ticket, the money from a raffle or an auction prize to their chosen PPC or seat.  They can then email Progress ( or Southern Front ( ) and they will be sent a fightback fundraiser kitemark that they can use on their promotional material for the event.

And Progress and Southern Front will then help to advertise the event through their email bulletins, website and twitter.  All funds raised will go directly to the marginal seat to be used on campaigning and there is no political condition attached to which marginal seat is supported.

On its own it will not redress the inevitable funding imbalance at the next election.  But as marginal seats begin the long countdown to polling day in May 2015 it is a start.  It helps campaigning in the marginals without undermining non-marginal seat activity.  It harnesses the support of the whole party and is not dependent on the central campaign team.  And it will encourage local parties in tight contests to innovate and be creative.

Let’s hope that over the next year other similarly creative solutions emerge because it is only by being creative can we possibly hope to maximise our campaigning efforts despite being outspent.

Peter Watt was general secretary of the Labour party

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2 Responses to “The fightback fundraiser kitemark can help free CLPs from central command and control”

  1. Anon E Mouse says:

    Peter Watt

    The main thing that may scupper your theory on funding from the unions is that this government will change the funding rules and prevent union block payments.

    Couple this with the lack of huge employers in traditional heartlands and you see Labour has to look elsewhere for it’s funding.

    A prime example of the party’s stupidity is when they allowed people to join Labour for nothing and then expected the country to believe that their popularity had increased. Someone has to pay to run the party and giving away membership’s achieved nothing.

    I have seen nothing that this government has done yet that will affect it’s own funding Tory wise by a single penny.

    Prime example is the nonsense over the so called pasty tax where the media and the Labour Party was shrieking about poor people’s food and at the same time Greggs, the very purveyor of the food in question, was donating to the Tory Party that very week.

    Why can’t Labour do what Obama did and go for small payments over the internet and stop letting the unions hold sway over the party?

    It’s quite simple for Labour to win the next election without spending a penny on a campaign. Offer a referendum on the EU and mean it and support for Labour will go through the roof….

  2. Robert says:

    What your trying to say you think the swing voters will not return so labour had better look at the working class, sadly I doubt the working class will be looking at labour for much.

    keep on going with your squeezed middle they might come back you never know

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