Labour should forget the polls and use its grassroots army to campaign on its core values every day until June 8

[Originally published in LabourList on 25 April 2017]

It has been a week since Theresa May called a snap general election. The main Tory election strategy so far has been to repeat opinion poll findings through their biased media outlets and satisfy themselves they are on course for a landslide victory. This is why May will not even bother to defend her record in a television debate.

Labour members should ignore these opinion polls, however, because polls do not win elections. What wins elections is getting out and speaking to voters. Labour has the largest number of members of any political parties in Europe. Thousands of new members have joined the party since this election was called. This is an opportunity to mobilise and form the biggest people-powered electoral campaign in British political history.

First off, the entire Labour family must come together as one united force. Labour has had its fair share of divisions since the 2015 general election, but now is not the time to have those internal debates. The electorate will not vote for a divided party. Members should take a leaf out of Sadiq Khan’s book. The London mayor has backed Jeremy Corbyn to be the next prime minister although he supported Owen Smith during the last leadership election.

Labour has been and will always be a broad church. In the 1983 general election, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were elected as Labour MPs under Michael Foot’s leadership even though they both went onto set out a fundamentally different vision for the Party. Instead of internal ideological differences, Labour members need to focus on the bigger picture, which is to oust this Tory government on 8 June 2017. The entire labour movement is united in this vision.

Spending even one minute debating our own differences is a minute wasted which could be spent attacking the Tories right now. A recent example is when members were circulating petitions on Facebook to expel Blair because he had appeared to suggest that people should vote Tory or Lib Dem candidates if they were open minded about Brexit. He has subsequently clarified that he does not propose tactical voting. However, that is not the point. The point is that as Labour members, all our energies should be focused on attacking the Tories. If members must circulate anything on social media, there are plenty of articles about Tory failures from over the last seven years.

Let us not forget May’s cynical motive behind calling this election, which is to boost the Tory majority significantly. This is where Labour members will need to campaign cleverly. Members from relatively safe seats will need to go to marginal Labour seats to help out with campaigning there. By way of example, I live in the safe Labour seat of Tottenham, which has a majority of 23,564 and I have been co-ordinating members to go and help out Tulip Siddiq defend a majority of 1,138 in Hampstead and Kilburn and Joan Ryan defend a majority of 1,086 in Enfield North. Up and down the country, Labour members should deploy themselves accordingly to ensure that we hold onto all our seats. We need to get our house in order first.

We will then need to look at Tory, Lib Dem or SNP marginal seats where Labour can make gains by putting in a strong people powered campaign. We need to learn from how Barack Obama mobilised a grassroots campaign in the run up to his famous presidential win in 2008.

Labour can run a similar grassroots campaign in this election. It has been reported that more than 100,000 under-25s have already registered to vote since this election was announced. Because Brexit will have the biggest impact on young people, this election means more to them than ever before. This is one particular demographic that Labour should target. If young people turn out in large numbers to vote, it will have the effect of turning traditional opinion polls on its head.

Some 34 per cent of registered voters, including significant number of young people, did not vote at the 2015 general election. There is widespread disenfranchisement and apathy amongst these voters. In the same way that hundreds of thousands of new members have been energised to join the Labour movement in the last couple of years, they now need to speak to their friends and neighbours to take the same leap of faith and vote Labour. This is the “neighbour-to-neighbour” campaigning model which emerged from Obama’s successful electoral campaigns.

There are 44 days left from today until 8 June and we have about 46 million voters in the UK. Labour has over 500,000 members. If each member speaks to at least two people every day, we would reach over a million people every day and we would have spoken to every single voter by the time of the election. As well as knocking on doors, we need to make sure that we speak to our relatives, friends and neighbours. We can also do this from the comfort of our homes using various social media platforms.

If any party can turn the opinion polls around, Labour can. It has a huge energised membership, which is its biggest strength. Opinion polls only represent opinions. After the 2015 general election, the president of YouGov, Peter Kellner said that politicians “should campaign on what they believe, they should not listen to people like me and the figures we produce”.

 

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How Labour can win the 2017 general election

22 April 2017: I was out campaigning with my local MP, David Lammy for the upcoming general election. There is lots of energy and enthusiasm amongst my Labour comrades, because we have an opportunity to dump this awful Tory government on 8 June 2017.

Having said on multiple occasions that there would be no snap election, Theresa May called one as part of her cynical attempt to increase her majority because of her commanding lead in the so-called opinion polls. If opinion polls actually mattered, we should just declare Theresa May winner now and go home. There is only one poll that matters and that’s on the election day. There are still many weeks go and Labour can turn things around. Here is how:

1. We need to change the Tory narrative and turn this election into not just about Brexit, but about Tory failures on education, NHS, living standards, housing, public services, transport and so on.

2. We need to focus on the 34% of registered voters who did not vote at the last general election (often young people). It is staggering to think that only 24% of all registered voters voted for the Conservative Party. This means that more people did not vote than voted Tory.

3. We need to make maximum use of social media. In this election, social media will be more important than ever before. People are switching away from traditional media. We need to be the ‘media’ and use all our social media platforms to speak to voters.

4. We need to deploy Labour’s members to get out and fight for every vote. We are the largest political party in Europe with 500,000+ members. We are at a massive advantage compared to the other parties.

Campaigning in Tottenham Green

Saturday 8 April 2017: The sun was out and it was a warm morning. It was around 11 o’clock. I hurried past Tottenham Hotspurs fans who had emerged from Seven Sisters underground station slowly making their way to the ground for the lunch time kick off. They looked cheerful not just because the sun was out, but because Spurs are doing rather well this season (unlike my own team Arsenal!).

I met up with some of Tottenham’s Labour councillors for knocking on residents’ doors in Grove Park Road (off West Green Road). I quite enjoy speaking to residents who are mostly pleased to see a friendly face (that’s me!). One particular resident invited me into his home and explained some problems where he needed council’s help. I took down his details so that local councillors could deal with it as casework.

After the campaigning session, I sat down with my comrades for a drink at a local Portuguese cafe called Bom Pecado. The place was buzzing. It was clear to see that people loved the authentic taste and the flavours served up in this little cafe. For some, it was like home away from home.

Tottenham has always welcomed people from all corners of the earth. I came to live here from Bangladesh with my family in 1993. I was a 12 year-old boy. Initially, it was difficult for me to adapt to a completely different environment not least because I did not speak any English. Once I settled down, Tottenham became my home. Although I travelled, lived and worked in many countries around the world, I always returned to Tottenham. I know this place like the back of my hand.