Cllr Robert Pritchard is Deputy Leader of Tamworth Borough Council
Many in the Conservative Party will be rubbing their hands with glee and raising their glasses to the new Labour leader and his cabinet. Widely it is believed that, electorally, the long term future doesn’t look good for Labour. The lack of a poll bounce, the lacklustre leaders speech at conference and the challenge of holding their party together.
However the immediate future for the Conservatives in local government could be equally bleak. While we are not having any of Jeremy Corbyn’s trip ups and party unity issues, we do have a sizable obstacle. This isn’t because of some new hope politics or Corbyn reaching the parts of the electorate that other politicians can’t reach. It’s simply because the Left has got what it wanted – and we all know that getting what you wanted is a big motivator.
So let me explain how that is bad for us.
We all know that a strong army to deliver leaflets, knock doors, telephone canvass or generally help in the background can turn a little council election campaign into a big council election campaign. However all parties and all seats, good or bad have one thing in common. That is a lack of foot soldiers.
This is Corbyn’s threat, sure he could make Labour laughable, but the left will unify under him. We have seen that with 15,000 new members in his first 24 hours as leader. Corbyn will bring back old members to the fold, perhaps many with campaign experience. And far more worrying, many idealistic young people will be pulling out their copy of the little red book. The result is Labour’s ranks continuing to swell and that swelling brings capacity focused on their common enemy, us.
More concerning is the possibility of the union workers coming out more. In the General Election the hordes of union members pounding the streets failed to materialise. Are they now more inclined under Corbyn?
Even though we are defending our 2012 seats next year (which was a bad year for us) this is where Labour’s new leader poses a serious risk to Conservatives in Local Government. On the whole local elections from a party’s point of view are just that, local. With so many local elections across the country at one time, only few are ever professionally resourced and supported by party central offices. This would be the same for every party as no one has unlimited resources.
When your left to your own devices its local activists that plan, resource and deliver a campaign. Sometimes it’s operated like a military campaign, well researched, ruthlessly targeted and designed to smash the enemy. However sometimes the local effort it’s one leaflet or even none at all. I’m sure we can all think of an examples from all parties that do nothing or very little because the powers that be in the seat don’t want to do anything or simply dont have a clue. I have also seen seats that think their one leaflets will seal them a massive runaway victory, you all know somewhere like that - disorganised or self-sure, a local election is actually the last think they should be in charge of. Every party has these seats.
So we have to plan for and take this enthused left as a serious threat. In many any local elections a steady number of Labour activists can either overwhelm us, or get those few messages to voters that win those swing seat. It means telephone centres working overtime, deliverers on the streets, helpers in the background and people knocking doors. There are so many seats that could tip the balance where just a few votes will count.
Those seats that think it’s plain sailing should think again, we should plan for the worst now, because next year’s local elections may turn out to be some of the hardest we have ever fought. This is a fight we can meet, the rise of the left will no doubt lead to a rise in our own determination and guile. Nothing motivates Conservatives like the old fashioned left and the threats it poses.We need to rally and motivate our troops now.
It’s also worth noting that those who are, we shall say, less of the hard left in the Labour Party are more than a little uncomfortable at the moment. Many are being pushed out by local Labour executives and I’m sure the resignation of a Labour councillor on the on my Council won’t be the first.
We shall wait and see, but we should not take anything for granted in local elections.