An overview from Neil Coyle on his campaign strategy.
It is presumptuous to suggest we will beat the Lib Dems in Bermondsey and Old Southwark in May, given Simon Hughes’ majority and 30-year record. But we won a majority of councillors in the constituency this year on a 12.5% swing that would win us the seat if replicated again. Additionally, there is hope in that Lord Ashcroft’s local polling puts us neck and neck.
We are focused on being visible, to show that the closeness of the fight is clear. Complementing this, we are also focusing on issues we think are most attractive, while highlighting Hughes’ dismal track record in government. We believe this combination will win back Bermondsey after a three decade absence from the roll-call of Labour seats.
We speak to over 2,000 people each month on the doorsteps and phones. But we’re also visible in other ways. New twitter ads enable us to reach thousands more people and we’re advertising in a local paper. We’ve also opened an office in a high street location with excellent footfall and in sight of bus routes serving the constituency.
The visibility and accessibility of the campaign is winning support. Each twitter ad clicked through, person who sees or comes into our office, leaflet recipient, every door we knock, each person whose casework gets addressed and who has personal contact with Labour wins people over for May.
Having an active team out on the doorstep selling our policies is important to winning. Some areas have not seen Labour campaigners since 1997. Ensuring people know we can win is crucial, but equally important is the issues we campaign on. Health, homes and jobs are our main themes.
The Labour ‘Time to Care’ campaign to provide the NHS with 8,000 more GPs and 20,000 more nurses is well received on local doorsteps. Guys is in the constituency and Kings and St Thomas’ are on the border. We have a high number of NHS workers living locally – as well as medical students.
Housing is a priority. That voters know we’re committed to building 200,000 homes a year is vital – and fits alongside Southwark Labour building 11,000 new council homes.
Our Job Guarantee also has traction. We have pockets of high and long-term unemployment, particularly affecting under 25s and over 50s. The commitments to tackling zero hour contracts abuse and to raising the minimum wage are also beneficial given the level of low pay locally.
Knocking doors and ringing voters gives us the opportunity to inform people of our positive policies and prospects. But it also helps communicate Hughes’ role in government.
Hughes doesn’t advertise his Lib Dem membership or Ministerial role. We will be ensuring voters know he has supported Tory measures including the Bedroom Tax and NHS reorganisation. We will also highlight his failure to be an influential Minister – given his record undermining Legal Aid and inability to ensure the Help to Buy scheme is able to help even one person in Bermondsey and Old Southwark.
Hughes’ opposition to Equal Marriage has also divided his local party and added to the perception that he has become illiberal with age. Supporting Tory policies on banning prison books and diminishing judicial review powers haven’t helped.
Our main activity to May 2015 is to ensure voters know Hughes’ position in government, contrasted with our positive policy offer. But we’ll also be emphasising strongly that only by voting Labour do people prevent Cameron’s coalition returning.
Neil Coyle, Labour Parliamentary candidate: Bermondsey & Old Southwark