OPINION: Act Now To Win Local Elections 18
‘We are in hell now, gentleman’, Al Pacino tells his embattled American Football Team, the Miami Sharks. He could well have been talking to us. Honest accounting is the beginning of the climb back into the light that Pacino calls for, so lets start with some; General Election results aside, we have yet since this election to successfully defend a seat. We have yet to gain a seat. We only gain vote share where we are breaking new ground. Instead of winning councilors we are hemorrhaging them. Apart from anything else, this means that we cannot reasonably argue the collapse in our vote share at the General Election was due to not standing in half the available seats.
I personally don’t believe any leader can turn the mood of deflation and recrimination around alone purely by dint of anything they say or do. One thing alone has the power to heal the wounds and raise moral and that is starting to win again. Politics is a desolate desert when you are losing but when you are winning it is a powerful drug, a giddy high that brings people together in its euphoric release. So, what are we going to do.
First things first we have to start now. Kudos to John Rees Evans for realising this and putting together a road map to the local elections in 2018. Anne Marie Waters loses marks for rather oddly not mentioning them at all in her plan for the first 100 days of her leadership. Secondly, we cannot allow local initiative to be stymied but it is simply ludicrous that some branches will be well advanced, maybe even have selected candidates, but others will be far behind and not even be thinking about this. Candidates for target wards should have already been selected. Non-targets should be done by the end of October at the latest. This will give them time to start canvassing, collecting casework and collecting crucial data which can then be utilised throughout the campaign. Select any later and there will be next to no time before the Christmas break kicks-in; then you are mid-way through January and its May in the blink of an eye. No time to canvass, no time to collect casework, no time to build a press profile – campaign lost before its started.
Personal contact and data collection and utilisation is key. Proportional Representation elections are all about getting as many votes as you can. Concentration of votes in an area is irrelevant, the number of votes that your opponent gets is less relevant. It is an unpleasant truth of First Past The Post elections that rather than winning as many votes as you can, all that matters is that you win more than the opposition. One or one hundred, it doesn’t matter too much (though it does determine how early a night you can get on election night), just as long as you win more. Holding the oppositions feet to the fire is therefore an essential part of campaigning.
All of this really needs to be happening now and it needs to be driven by a strong center. It cannot be left to chance which letting local branches find their own way is effectively doing. We cannot afford a drubbing as a Party and our new leader, whomever they may be, certainly cannot. This is why to win in 2018 we have to act now.