What can Labour do to win in Surrey?

21 Mar 2018

Over the past few months, I've been slowly building up a network of friends and comrades from across the Labour movement. A good number of these I already knew from the student movement, but I've also made friends from the People's Assembly Against Austerity, Momentum, and also the more centrist wing of Labour too. 


Many of these friends are actively involved in campaigning; whether that's organising protests, or door knocking, or online and social media activity, everyone has their strengths, and I'm sure that most would agree on the end goal: a Labour government. 


The problem for me is that I live in a fairly strong Tory seat (Woking, Surrey). Same goes for all the seats within Surrey. In fact, Surrey Tory MPs account for 7 Cabinet Ministers. 


In terms of local democracy, we have three Labour Councillors on Woking Borough Council (though we are hoping to be able  to increase that to four in the May elections), and we have just one Labour Councillor on Surrey County Council. Clearly we are keen to increase that too, and there are various issues that we can and are campaigning on locally to hopefully allow the electorate to put their faith in more Labour candidates in future.


But I am increasingly concerned that Surrey is being forgotten by the Labour movement nationally, and also by Momentum and other left leaning organisations. Everyone knows that London is a fairly strong Labour area, and that will hopefully be reflected even more by the results of the aforementioned local elections. But less than 30 mins by train from Waterloo, and the CLPs seem to be left to our own devices, abandoned by our party as hopeless causes.


Where is the Unseat event for Philip Hammond (Tory MP for Runneymede and Weybridge, and Chancellor of the Exchequer), or for Jeremy Hunt, or for Michael Gove? Ok, I accept that these people have larger majorities than that of Boris Johnson, or IDS, or other high profile Tory MPs with dwindling majorities, but Unseat events should also be about the issues that those MPs are leading on, and taking those key messages out to the voters of those areas with a view to informing them. Even if there is little chance of us winning those seats, a swing towards Labour at the next General Election would be enough to make them seriously alarmed.


Where I live, in Woking, Labour has a candidate in every General Election, yet I never get them or a representative of them, knocking on my door. You'd think that they would, at the very least, knock on the door of known Labour voters and members, wouldn't you? 


It's quite a self-defeating cycle when you think about it. When you don't go out and campaign in an area, you effectively lead would be or undecided voters to think that you don't care. So those voters are unlikely to vote for you, or at all for that matter. So the other parties end up with bigger vote shares, and the winners end up with bigger majorities. Rinse and repeat for the next election. 


We need to start campaigning in these seats that we once described as "not winnable", not with a view to turning them red in the next election, but to build towards Labour victories of the future. Even if it is one campaigning day a month, it will be moving in the right direction, and it will help future CLP Executive Committees win elections more easily. 


Surrey Labour needs to be a lot more active in co-ordinating this activity. For example, it could organise these campaigning days (outside of local election campaigning periods) where everyone gathers in a certain constituency on a certain date, and we do a mass campaign, and we would rotate through each of the constituencies, no matter how big the majorities are for the MPs representing them. This would be helped if, for example, Momentum could co-ordinate their supporters from nearby areas to join us on some of these days under the banner of their Unseat campaign days, perhaps for the most high profile Tory MPs. Remember, this would not be with the goal of creating some huge swing at the next election. It's about incremental swings, which, in the meantime, are likely to make those MPs think a lot harder about their voting records.


To bring it back to my original point though, this kind of co-ordinated action can only be started with a sense of direction from the top of the party - the Leader, the NEC and the General Secretary who is responsible for ensuring that the Party has an effective election machine. 


In my new positions as Disability Officer for Woking CLP, and Ordinary Member for Surrey Labour, I'm going to be pushing this point as much as possible. Pushing us to reach out beyond our core voters, to the groups of people that we need to win over in order to secure a Labour majority government.


I truly believe that within my lifetime, we will see a handful of Labour MPs elected in Surrey, either as a succession within one constituency, or alongside each other in multiple constituencies. To do that, we need a lot more support from the Unions, from organisations like Momentum, and from the Labour Party & NEC itself. 


I may have my work cut out for me, but I am ready for the challenge...

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