Will Goodhand is PPC for Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland, and a director of a market research company.
There’s a tipping point in this election – and it’s in the North East . Talking of which, have you ever read The Tipping Point – the turn-of-the-Millennium book by Malcolm Gladwell about how ideas and phenomena spread and catch on?
In a demonstration of exactly the phenomenon it described, the book dramatically encouraged the transition of academic learning into popular wisdom – thereby advancing government policy on everything from encouraging healthy lifestyles to citizen interaction with government services (I’m thinking of books like Nudge, Thinking Fast & Slow, etc).
And recently, as the countdown to the General Election hit 100 days, Sky News, complete with Dermot Murnaghan turned up at Prior Pursglove, the fantastic Sixth Form College in Guisborough, the ancient capital of Cleveland.
The connection? Sky has identified the former Conservative seat of Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland as the tipping point in the coming General Election: the seat that the Conservatives need in order to win a majority.
Thus Murnaghan was quizzing myself as Conservative candidate, as well as the UKIP candidate, at the college where I’ve recently held three apprenticeship events to boost local youth opportunities. The Labour MP? Well, he had been due to participate, but pulled out just before we went on air.
The vital statistic? A current Labour majority of 1,677. But to get a more complete picture, it’s instructive to view the situation according to Gladwell’s analysis. To succeed, Gladwell contends that you need:
- A ‘sticky’ message.
- The right conditions for it to catch on.
- The right people to spread it.
Sticky message? “You’ve got the economy sorted, and we’ve got to keep that Miliband and his comrades out”, said a gentleman in Saltburn to me yesterday. Since 2010, we’ve seen the constituency’s Job Seekers’ Allowance claimant numbers almost halve (there’s been a fall of 43 per cent), with double the number of apprenticeships starting each year than during the Labour government, and 27,000 new businesses started in the North East since 2010.
The right conditions? People are heartily tired of Labour’s North East big beasts taking them for granted: What did Tony Blair, David Miliband, Alan Milburn et al do for us in their 13 years of unrestrained power? What did they deliver? What is Labour delivering now? Squabbling, overtaxing and under-servicing councils (The Leader & Deputy Leader of Redcar & Cleveland council were deselected by their party last last week!).
The right people to spread it? Disaffection is one thing; harnessing it quite another. To do this there is no substitute for simple straightforward hard work.
We have gradually been joined by others who want join us, and improve their community. From the big things to the small: cleaning up a housing estate caught in the lacuna between housing association and council; removing dead birdlife from a town hall building repossessed by the bank from an overextended business; arranging apprenticeship events to connect young people from our rural villages with opportunities with growing local businesses. Doing all these things attracts others who want to make a change to their community.
A couple of days ago, I was telephoned by a resident who wanted to tell me of her hopes for a town which she feels has gone downhill. She’s now starting her own petition and joining the electoral roll for the first time because she wants to vote Conservative. Not so long ago, I met an impressive lady who has been involved in the financial turnaround of our Guisborough and East Cleveland Sea Cadets. I was delighted when she told me she would like to stand as one of our council candidates. A working mum, she joins a retired RAF engineer turned supermarket delivery driver on our team in Skelton. People are joining us and spreading the message because they sense that change is in the air – and that we are improving life in South Middlesbrough and East Cleveland.
Labour chaos is all before us: when the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council are de-selected by their own side, what other word is there for it? I am proud that we present an alternative of people brimming with real world insight and experience. The Labour incumbent? A first-termer and former Unite official. This Conservative opponent? Comprehensive school-educated with a business background.
This is a seat which will make the difference – delivering majority government, demonstrating Conservatives garner support across our country, with policies which benefit the North East just as they do the rest of our country. If you want a tip, watch this tipping point in May.