by Sarah Jones
Last week, hard work and better tactics led the Labour party to election victory in Croydon. And we can do the same again in 2015.
The Conservative campaign in Croydon was flawed for three reasons.
First, they had no message – treating the electorate with so little respect they didn’t even produce a manifesto. Their focus instead was to run a negative and personal campaign, falsely claiming Labour would put up council tax by 27%. The voters didn’t buy it.
Second, they didn’t listen to local people. We had talked to people across Croydon who had told us their priorities were cleaning up Croydon, tackling crime, and building more schools. If the Conservatives had had those conversations, maybe they would have known what people’s priorities were. Instead they had nothing to say.
Finally, their tactics were all wrong. They focused their attentions on a Labour ward, where they made small but not significant gains. They missed the real battle ground completely, despite us tweeting where we were there every day. We were able to mobilise more people to get out and vote. We ran a better campaign.
Those are the reasons why they lost. Looking at the Tory response, I think there’s a danger for them that they will keep on losing.
They will keep on losing if they convince themselves it is all down to UKIP. Yes UKIP was absolutely a factor, but it’s a worry for all the main parties. Labour lost votes to UKIP as well.
On the doorstep, people say they are voting UKIP for two reasons. First, and I get this more than anything else, because they are fed up with all the political parties after the expenses scandal and promises broken. Second, it’s all about immigration.
The key to tackling UKIP is therefore two-fold. First we need to understand what is driving the concerns raised by people who say immigration is an issue for them. The underlying problem is normally housing, or jobs or education. Croydon has the biggest shortage of school places in London for example. People have a strong moral sense of fairness and there is a perception that some people are getting more than others.
In reality, the Tories have cut our services so there isn’t enough to go round, and then pointed the finger elsewhere to lay the blame. If Labour can provide a solution by building more houses, guaranteeing a job for young people, and providing the school places we need, we stand a chance of tackling UKIP.
And second, we need to tackle the issue of trust which is to my mind the bigger problem. In my experience, trust comes from conversations, sharing-views, taking about kids and our neighbourhoods, and eye-balling one-other. Big promises don’t work.
Labour won where we worked hardest and reached out to people we hadn’t spoken to before. We will win marginal seats like Croydon Central by going from door, to door, to door and talking to people. That’s the only way to do it. People like our policies, and they have no great love for David Cameron. When there are a lot of people disaffected with politicians as a whole and it is very close, all you can do is take it one voter at a time and try and persuade them to choose you.
Four women literally wept on the doorstep with me in the last four weeks of the campaign because of their problems that have been exacerbated by a Conservative government. Compassion is at the very core of who we are as a Party. Living our Labour values and trying to help will take us a long way on the road to victory in 2015.
Last week the Conservatives were simply out worked and out thought during a campaign that ended with the first Labour-controlled council since 2006 in Croydon. Here’s to doing that again in 2015.
Sarah Jones is Labour’s PPC for Croydon Central, one of 12 target marginal seats in London and no 46 on the list of seats Labour must win in 2015.