Connor Short is the Youth Coordinator for Tory Workers and the Chairman for Wigan, Leigh and Makerfield Young Conservatives.
The Council ward of Leigh South in the Borough of Wigan, has been held entirely by Labour ever since it was formed as a ward in 2004.The three seats in the ward have only ever been held by the same three Labour men. This should come as no surprise. In Mark Wallace’s article in 2015 there was a fascinating comparison between the coalfields and Labour strongholds. So comfortable were their positions that at no point have any of the Labour councillors ever felt the need to perform a Get Out The Vote exercise in the last few days of the campaign, but this time they did and the results proved that they needed to. Throughout the count, Labour were concerned as they witnessed what was always a red stronghold become, for the first time ever, a marginal seat. On a night where we boosted the number of Tories on Wigan Council, the story seemed to be focused on Leigh South. Achieving as high as 46 per cent of the vote was an unexpected scare for Labour. The best result for the Conservatives since 1979, when it was under a different boundary and a different name.
The myth on the minds of many voters at election time is that the Labour Party support the workers, while the Tories support the bankers. It’s this myth that is found running its own race in Labour heartlands like Leigh. Defeating this stereotype can only be broken by providing a display of the hard work ethics in the candidate. A display can be provided by turning up on voters’ doorsteps to ask for their concerns and providing them with a clear leaflet, which both promotes the candidate and, if in opposition, holds the incumbent councillors to account.
Leigh has a very proud history of mining and working class values. Residents in Leigh even have the proud honour of living in the same town as the birthplace of the Spinning Jenny.
Instinctively, voters in Leigh will not vote for a candidate that is either from out of town or has a lack of working class attitudes. Sitting in an office does not win any votes here. To win a vote, you must show how hard you’ll work and how passionate you are about speaking up for everyone in the ward. Every single vote must be earned. So, that’s what I did over three months of hard campaigning, to achieve marginality in a Labour stronghold and set up a reshaping of politics in Leigh.
Proudly, as a Tory Worker, it took a strict worker’s attitude to break new ground in Leigh at this year’s election. Over the course of the campaign, I took 702,000 steps, delivered two leaflets in the first and third months of the campaign to every single letterbox in the ward, knocked on 2,700 doors (including at least 250 in every polling district) and my dawn raid took in 23 miles and led to three days of painful limping after polling day. The result of the campaign was something I am very proud of. Labour saw their majority get slashed from 30 per cent to just eight per cent.
A Worker’s campaign is not something that works exclusively in Leigh South, or even Leigh constituency. It is a campaign that will be highly respected by the electorate in working class areas, industrial areas and areas with a high population in the social grades C2 D and E, across the whole of the UK.
Practicing this attitude, using the right local candidates with a determined, focused and passionate attitude, will likely open up many doors currently being creaked open. Since January, there has been a seven-point swing from Labour to the Conservatives amongst working class voters. At this current time, we have been presented with an opportunity to appeal to a new generation of Conservatives and prove to everyone that we stand for everyone’s right to access the ladder of opportunity. Let’s take it.