Congratulations to Seema Malhotra, the newly elected MP for Feltham and Heston. By-elections are always a pleasant victory considering that the campaigns are often fought on local issues without the overbearing presence of PPBs or Leaders’ Debates. Still, today’s victory will not come as a surprise to many; Feltham and Heston has been a safe Labour seat since ’92, with the party gaining well over 40% of the vote in each contest.
What struck me was the campaign itself, and the Party’s sudden overhaul in mobilising every available figure to canvass the streets and man the phones. Along with Seema herself, Ed M was always on hand to talk to the electorate or get his picture taken in front of whatever banner happened to stand behind him. Labour Students from all across the country were drafted in, and not an hour went by without some back-bencher or prominent activist being retweeted for announcing their involvement in the campaign. This is, of course, an extremely admirable campaign force and one that no doubt succeeded in engaging constituents on ‘the big issues’.
My problem, however, is such; if the Party can create such a wave of enthusiasm towards a safe seat, why can it not mirror this attitude in campaigns for Tory or Lib Dem seats? For the last 13 years of Labour it seems to me that we have grown complacent in our Parliamentary majority, happy to let Conservative MPs and Lib Dem councils wreak havoc just as long as we stayed in government. Now that we’re in opposition, we should be reaching out not just to seats that slipped to the Lib Dems in 2010, but to every corner of the country, not for the sake of a Parliamentary majority but so that we might bring valuable Labour principles to areas that need them most.
Enemy safe seats are where we must be directing the majority of our campaign strength, to show the people that we are their Party fighting for their needs. Not only would a large campaign ease the burden on local parties, which always struggle with organisation and man-power during elections, but the presence of key Labour figures and a commitment to engaging local people on issues they truly care about will surely see an increased support for the Party, and ultimately an election victory that benefits the majority.