Published:

5 comments

Chairman Councillor Val Bowles and Vice Chairman Councillor Mike Jenkins offer their thoughts on the Bassetlaw campaign

Firstly,
it didn’t happen overnight.  We have elections every year in Bassetlaw
and  we went from 15 seats (out of 48) in 2002 up to 24 and NOC by 2004
before getting our majority this year (in 2005 we had a year off for the County
elections).  So, many people over a number of years have contributed to
where we are now.

 

What
made 2006 different and so successful was that we set out a strategy to win a
number of identified target seats and focussed on them.  As a target
council we also had support from our Area office.

 

We were
very fortunate to have had high calibre candidates who were very committed;
they were well received and really  worked themselves into the ground. The
personal touch whilst out campaigning also made a lot of difference.

 

We
really did target.  Having targeted the seats we then targeted likely
Conservative voters, likely Conservative areas and likely Conservative
issues.  We had the results from a voter survey paid for by HQ and
distributed by Area office.  This meant we could pinpoint key issues in
different target wards and we produced candidates’ issue –based leaflets on
that basis.

 

We had
very limited canvass returns and too few people on the ground to do traditional
canvassing during the campaign period. Therefore, using local knowledge and
with the help of  Voter Vault we identified the streets and estates with
our highest support levels.  Candidates leafleted them until they dropped.

 

We made
good use of the Localiser campaign manual produced by CCA.  However, we
did have to simplify the recommendations dramatically because we didn’t have
the time or people to produce multiple leaflets, nor to produce lots of photos
and graphics.

 

We were
also successful because of things we didn’t do – including certain local Tory
campaign myths and rituals – so we didn’t try and knock on every door.
The turnout’s only thirty odd percent, so why waste time that way?  We
didn’t waste time in strongly Labour areas just to show them we weren’t afraid.
The aim was to win in the target seats and we stayed focussed on it.

The new
seats we won in May are in areas where membership is low and we have little or
no formal organisation.  As logic dictates, our membership is concentrated
in those areas where we have safe seats, so we must now work hard in those
newly won seats; we cannot rest on our laurels.

 

We had a visit from David Cameron at the beginning of the campaign
which provided some good publicity and was a great morale booster for the
candidates. 

The Cameron effect in Bassetlaw was that a) he came here and no
other leader has done that for an election b) he visited one of our
council’s successful community partnership schemes which
gave us positive publicity c) he did a very good job
talking to people who aren’t our natural supporters.  On the other hand
our voter survey question on the Cameron effect indicated mixed
results.  We have no evidence to suggest that he affected the result
significantly.

In the successful target seats we fought on very local bread and
butter issues: crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour;  local
environment ie clean streets and litter; traffic and illegal parking ;
facilities for children and teenagers.  So, it was classic
"pavement politics" and it worked.  There’s no doubt in anyone’s
mind that the national background of Labour’s chaos helped.
Having said that, where we won, it was a textbook case of local
council campaigning straight from the manual.

 

So we
have a working majority on the District Council. The down side is that among
our twenty eight seats we have a long   tail of marginals with five
vulnerable to a swing of less than 1%.  The challenge now is to
consolidate our position by building up membership in our new seats and to get
members at large to appreciate the importance of holding on to those marginals.
Next year will be the real test.

***
Previous in series:
Greg Smith on the Hammersmith & Fulham campaign

5 comments for: How local elections were won: Mike Jenkins and Val Bowles

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.