Dear Liz, Andy, Yvette and Jeremy,
It’s exactly one month to the day that I stood in the West Lindsey Leisure Centre to hear my result in the 2015 General Election.
Whilst I was hardly expecting a landslide in a safe Tory seat, I had hoped that Labour would make some in roads.
The local party had been moribund for some time, I was only selected in December so I thought I’d give it a good go.
I promised a ‘Fresh Start’ for Gainsborough, to help small businesses, defend the NHS, sort out a social housing repair backlog, cut tuition fees and scrap the bedroom tax.
I thought it was a good mixture of local and national policies.
I did a video, using Facebook’s tools to specifically target just the 17,000 people on the social network site. It was watched by more than 10,000 of them!
We also did our fair share of those five million conversations on the doorsteps and in the sixth forms.
I took way too many campaign selfies!
We went from third to second, increased Labour’s vote by more than 36% and I managed to get the only swing from Tory to Labour in Lincolnshire (1.15% for those of you who like stats!)
We also managed to get three great council candidates elected.
Of course I still got stuffed, Sir Edward Leigh’s majority increased by nearly 5,000 to 15,000 and the 2010 Lib Dem vote (they went from second to fourth) seemed to split equally to UKIP, Labour and the Tories.
And although I was happy to get 10,500 votes (up from 7,701) a little bit of me was still a bit surprised we didn’t get more, especially in the town of Gainsborough.
Two of its wards are in the top 10% of the most deprived wards in England. I fact a recent study found the boys born there today can only expect to live healthily for 52 years.
This morning, I received this email from a woman called Keziah which went some way to answering my question.
I print it in full here in the hope that you see what she has to say and hopefully provide an answer.
A month ago you stood as a candidate in my constituency of Gainsborough.
I didn’t vote for you.
Why would you be interested in this? Because I should have voted Labour. I am from a background that would traditionally vote Labour.
Working-class, left-wing, of a generation that grew up under the Tories and understood how destructive that was.
Like much of the country, I woke up on the 8th of May disbelieving, angry and scared. But I didn’t vote for my Labour candidate. Why not?
My concerns about the current government (and the previous one, in coalition with the Lib-Dems) were about their callous treatment of the ordinary people of Britain, and their blatant disregard for human life.
Coupled with this has been a rhetorical and media campaign designed to dehumanise and demonise vast swathes of society – amongst whom benefit claimants and migrants. And a bunch of lies about the economic situation.
I read the Labour party manifesto. Did it challenge the lies? The myth of the deficit and that the only way to clear it would be to make cuts – to the NHS, to the welfare state, to the ordinary services of the people of Britain? No it did not.
I see that Labour is still failing to challenge these lies, lies which are disproved repeatedly by top economists. Instead it is jumping on the Tory bandwagon and talking about benefit ‘scroungers’ and the like. Why?
I’m concerned, in the aftermath of the election, as Labour licks its wounds and candidates consider why they didn’t get votes, that you may have been listening too much to the right-wing media campaigns, the ones that say you lost because you were too left-wing. That’s not true. You lost because you were too far to the right.
With your meek and watery acceptance of Tory lies and rhetoric you lost your left-wing voters. But you didn’t gain the right-wingers, who will always prefer Tory. In one group of which I am a member, a poll showed that 96% of people thought that Labour are too right-wing.
Voters don’t trust you because you don’t challenge the Tory propaganda. Why is this? Do you think that we have spaghetti for brains and believe all that stuff? Or are you actually morally on a par with the Tories? Neither of those stances will get you votes.
I would urge you and your fellow Labour party members to take this into account, as you regroup and choose your leader.
This is what lost you votes which, when I was growing up, would have safely belonged to Labour.
You’re not an effective opposition because you’re not opposing. Please do see this email as constructive feedback – yes, there is some criticism, but only because I’m seriously concerned that the Labour party has been out of touch with the electorate.
With very best wishes,
Anyone who’s ever worked in consultancy has their story to tell about ‘difficult’ clients.
I remember one time being shouted at down the phone by an irate CEO.
I’d managed to get a senior director of his company a slot on Sky News.
But he wanted me to physically pull her out from the green room just as about she was due to go on air.
I managed to convince him, in spite of his blinding rage, that it would reflect badly on the company and his character.
After a few more expletives he put the phone down and the live went ahead.
The client isn’t always right. But the art of being an advisor is to politely but forcefully push back when you think their reputation is at risk.
I offer this after reading Patrick Wintour’s very detailed inquest into why Labour lost the election in today’s Guardian. It is a brilliant read but it left me equally sad, furious and frustrated.
It’s clear from reading that piece that Ed was a difficult client. But he is also a rare breed – a conviction politician who was passionate about his beliefs.
Yes, he failed to rigorously defend Labour’s economic record and rebut the Tory myths that the party ‘spent all the money’ and caused the recession.
But he genuinely believed that moving on from New Labour and reducing inequality were the right things to do.
However as parliamentary candidate myself on the doorstep in Gainsborough, the two things that came up most were Labour’s economic competence (“you spent all the money”) and “that bloody SNP woman getting into Downing Street.”
Say what you like about Lynton Crosby, Osborne and Cameron, they fought a ruthlessly effective campaign.
And with Nicola Sturgeon, they found the silver bullet to kill Ed’s ambition stone dead.
But from reading Wintour’s piece there seemed to be no one with the weight, gravitas or pure nous to speak truth to power.
You could argue that was a fault of Ed self-selecting his team of like-minded people. But it was incumbent on his advisors to push back more. I know Bob Roberts, Labour’s Director of Communications did but there many who didn’t.
How the Ed Stone made it through TEN planning meetings is beyond me. Ok, it didn’t swing the election, but it is a striking monument to the failure of his advisors to spot potential pratfalls.
The idea shouldn’t have made it through a brainstorm let alone make it to a photocall days out from polling day.
Whilst Wintour’s piece is fascinating it should also be essential reading for everyone working in politics and comms – from leadership candidates to the next generation of political advisors.
For the next leader, he or she must surround themselves with people who aren’t natural allies or like-minded souls.
Good CEOs don’t pick Yes Men. They hire people who compliment and compensate for their skills and weaknesses. The best ones value advisors with an in-built challenge function to sense check their prospective decisions.
As for leader’s advisors, they need to look further than tomorrow’s headline. The inertia in planning, the inability to spot future problems and the failure to get the boss to change direction speaks volumes of advisors who’ve never worked in the private sector.
Ed may have had a bunker mentality during the election. But there were too many advisors taking orders and not enough challenging them.
Ed was let down by the very people who are now desperately trying to salvage their own careers.
Churchill said “history is always written by the winners.”
In Labour, it seems the loser’s advisors get to write it too.
Say what you like about Ukip, they’re pretty savvy. To you and I, their new posters are xenophobic dog-whistle politics at its worst.
But they’re not meant to appeal to me. They’re targeting a C2DE working class northern demographic, who feel alienated by politics. Ukip prey on prejudices and insecurities, framing the EU as the problem and Brexit as the answer.
But surely Ukip’s smart Director of Comms Patrick O’Flynn – who I knew when we were both cub reporters in Hull back in the early 90s – should have noticed the howling blind spot to the “26 million Europeans-after-your-job” poster.
I tweeted it last night.
Now remind me which Ukip leader employs his German wife on up to £30k at British taxpayers’ expense? pic.twitter.com/JRH5xgvwEk
— David Prescott (@DavidPrescott) April 21, 2014
Over 400 RTs later and the mainstream media rightly called Farage out. Helen Fospero on Daybreak was the first to ask him about his relaxed attitudes to employing Germans.
But Nick Robinson really put Nigel to the sword at the poster launch in Sheffield. (See what I mean about targeting the North?)
So how did they mess up? Ukip’s major donor Paul Sykes had editorial control over the posters (he was stumping up £1.5m to pay for them after all.)
But that’s no excuse for not sense checking the ads. The 26m Europeans ad has not only exposed Farage’s hypocrisy it’s tied him to putting his foreign wife on expenses.
He revels in being ‘different’ to other politicians but defending your wife’s taxpayer funded employment because others won’t wash with voters.
Besting Clegg in a television debate is one thing.
Standing up to intense mainstream and social media scrutiny is another.
Today was a reminder to O’Flynn and his team how tough it’s about to get and that they need to raise their game – fast!
Farage says he’s aiming for an ‘Earthquake’ in British politics if his party wins the European Elections.
But will it be a breakthrough or a breakdown? Unless they anticipate preventable howlers like this, it’ll be the latter.
It’s going to be a long four weeks for the Kippers. And even longer for the hardworking Frau Farage.
Back to normality and this blog after my brief transfer to Nationbuilder.
(BTW, I can’t recommend Nationbuilder enough – great functionality for anyone running a campaign.)
I was amazed by Emine Saner’s piece in The Guardian. Probably the best piece I’ve read on political families.
But I found one pic that I thought captured the spirit of the Greenwich and Woolwich selection.
Here’s Annie Keys and I. We’d just realised that we weren’t going to win. But after three solid months on the doorstep, the phones and in meetings it didn’t matter.
Annie’s a really remarkable campaigner and I’m certain her time will come.
Anyway, here’s the pic.
I’m currently blogging at my Greenwich and Woolwich campaign site.
It’s at davidprescott.co.uk
I live just under three miles away from Woolwich fire station. It’s one of the 10 stations earmarked for closure by Boris Johnson along with axing 580 frontline fire service jobs.
If Woolwich closes, the average response time for a fire tender to reach my house in Shooters Hill will increase by 25 seconds from 6.35 mins to 7 minutes. The minimum response time target across London is supposed to be 6 mins. So my wife and daughter are going to be at greater risk.
And if you look in Woolwich itself, the response time increases under Boris’ plans are staggering.
For the 19,000 residents in Woolwich Riverside, the estimate of the first fire engine to arrive on scene will increase from 4.57 mins to 7.21! That’s 2.24 slower.
Woolwich Common, with 17,500 residents, will see the response time increase by 58 seconds, from 5.32 to 6.30 mins.
So this video from the Fire Brigade Union and Ross Kemp, highlighting how quickly fire spread,s frightens the hell out of me as it should the four million other Londoners who will experience longer response times after the stations are axed.
A compromise deal by Boris to put an extra tender in East Greenwich to sweeten the blow is frankly not good enough.
That’s why I’m glad Greenwich Council has joined the judicial review with seven other authorities against the decision.
Time and again Boris has lied about his plans.
“Since I have been Mayor there’s been a colossal reduction in deaths by fire.”
Boris Johnson, Mayor’s Question Time, 17 July 2013
But as Ross Kemp points out in the film: “This isn’t true. Since Boris Johnson was elected the trend rate of fire deaths in London has been going up – not down.”
“More boroughs will be brought within the minimum response times both for the first and the second appliance.”
Boris Johnson, Mayor’s Question Time, 17 July 2013
But not one borough is being brought within the target of six minutes for the first fire engine to arrive.
“Under this Mayor there will be absolutely no reduction in fire cover and we will continue to make London a safer city.”
Boris Johnson, Mayor’s Budget Speech, 25 January 2012
Councillor John Fahy has played a huge part in campaigning against the closure.
But we’ve all got to get behind him and the FBU to make sure we keep Woolwich Fire Station open.
So please sign the 38 Degrees petition.
Boris might want to save £29m but it’s reckless in the extreme to achieve this by putting the lives of four million Londoners at risk.
I’ve spent the last 13 years living in the borough of Greenwich.
It’s the place my wife and I chose to live and raise a family, where I get involved in local Labour politics as Vice Chair of Campaigns and became Chair of Governors of a struggling secondary school.
It’s a fantastically diverse place to live. My daughter went to a wonderful local state nursery with over 20 different nationalities and the community stood together against far right meatheads after the tragedy near Woolwich barracks.
The other week, pupils at my school Blackheath Bluecoat achieved a record 70% 5 Good GCSEs including english and maths, months after getting our first Good OfSTED. But next year we will close. Our Building Schools for the Future move to a new school on the Peninsula was cancelled by Gove and the Coalition.
It was a kick in the teeth, but we wanted to concentrate on raising our results even further. When you’re a governor, you want to do everything you can for your pupils and teachers.
Then the council decided we should close. In spite of raising results and being in the 10% of the most rapidly improving schools in the country, budget cuts and a declining school role meant our school was not ‘financially viable.’
We fought the closure. It takes much longer to turn round the public perceptions of a school with parents and after a campaign, we managed to keep the school open a year longer than proposed.
But we were just one of the countless hard decisions that are being made by councils across this country.
So I can sit back and moan or get involved.
I’m getting involved. By standing for selection to be Labour’s candidate for Greenwich and Woolwich. I’ve privately told many members but felt it best to share with everyone why I’m standing.
I believe we need to get back to the politics of conviction and put some real passion into our policies.
Not old Labour or new Labour but Bold Labour.
I want to see councils allowed to build more social housing for the five million households on waiting lists, see Labour bring track and rail franchises back into public ownership – because it will actually make the taxpayer money – and provide universal childcare so mums who want to, can get back to work.
I like to feel as a 43 year-old dad working with businesses, I have real life experience. I left school at 18 and worked my way up through the ranks as a journalist from a local press agency to an Assistant Editor at the BBC. I now work in public relations helping companies grow and become more successful.
But I’m also proud to have been party and trade union member for over 25 years, campaigning to preserve the minimum wage, against RBS handing out £1B of public money to bankers, highlighting the damage scrapping NHS Direct would cause and even coming up with the ‘Airbrushed’ Cameron poster meme that inspired mydavidcameron.com
So I want to try to do politics differently.
If selected and elected, I would be a full-time MP working to bring jobs and investment into the borough, with no outside directorships or second jobs. I’d also draft a candidate contract with members and the electorate to help set my priorities and commitments for the coming term.
I’d also forge stronger links with our Labour family – local trade union branches, members, supporters, councillors and the Co-Op.
And I’d establish a full-time constituency office on Woolwich’s main high street with local staff and offer living wage paid apprenticeships to local students. I would never employ family staff.
I built my own career. Now I want to help others in Greenwich and Woolwich build theirs.
I really look forward to putting my case to members.