A leaked copy of Labour’s internal June elections briefing document show just how limited Labour’s hopes for the elections are.
In a slide listing “Labour priorities”, the party’s ambitions for the elections are given as:
- Maximise Labour vote in Euro election
- Stop BNP gaining Euro seat
- Hold 4 Labour County Councils
- North Tyneside and Doncaster Mayoral races
“Maximise vote” is telling as the alternatives would be “gain seats” or “hold seats”. “Maximise vote” is polite shorthand for “lose as few seats as possible”.
Whilst stopping the BNP would be on many party’s equivalent lists, for county councils Labour’s ambitions are also very limited: simply trying to hold the four councils it currently has. Even last year, Labour was aiming for some council gains.
John Harrison, the Labour North Tyneside Mayor, won by just 1,002 votes (1.1%) in 2005, whilst in Doncaster the Labour Mayor, Martin Winter, has been expelled following a split in Doncaster Labour Party.
An intriguing detail in the four county council contests highlighted by Labour is the degree to which the challenge to Labour in them comes from the Liberal Democrats.#
Although in all four (Derbyshire, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire) the Conservatives have more seats than the Liberal Democrats, in the last round of elections it was the Liberal Democrat vote which increased across all four. In three of them the Conservative vote fell, whilst in the fourth (Derbyshire) the increase in the Conservative vote (+0.3%) was both small and less than the Liberal Democrat increase (+4%). The combination of county and general election on the same day last time most likely partly explains this relative performance, but it suggests that Labour is facing a tough fight on two fronts.
The leaked briefing goes on to explain in some detail the plans for central Labour operations to support their local campaigns. Efforts are being overwhelmingly concentrated on just the four county councils and two Mayor elections highlighted above, with 570,000 items of direct mail and 70,000 phone calls planned. These numbers are relatively small compared with past Labour operations, suggesting that the party’s financial troubles are hitting its ability to run campaigns.
However, for any Liberal Democrat campaigning in those six areas it is worth bearing in mind the degree of extra campaigning which may be needed to compensate for even that reduced level of Labour campaigning.