Now that Theresa May has finished cobbling together her doomed coalition of chaos with the Democratic Unionist Party, I thought it was time to reflect on the general election result in Coventry South.
Looking back now with the result known, you could be forgiven for thinking what was there to worry about? A majority increased by 250%!
At the time, plenty! We were miles behind in the polls and the Tories were cock-a-hoop believing they would take two of the three seats in Coventry. Erroneously, the Coventry Telegraph had Labour losing Coventry North East whilst retaining the North West. Madness of course but that was the climate.
Firstly, we had to confirm our candidate. Due to short timescales, re-selection processes were bypassed by the NEC of the party in favour of sitting MPs indicating and signing their willingness to stand. If the incumbent decided not to stand, the party would impose nationally. Fortunately, Jim Cunningham signed on the dotted line. The challenge had been accepted and the game could commence!
Except, this was no game. This was a fight for the heart, soul and future direction of our country.
Next, we had to get a campaign together. Time was short if we wanted to hit the ground running. Leaflets and letters were written, ordered and printed all in the space of two or three days. A schedule was prepared of activities including door knocking and leaflet delivery. All at the same time as being under pressure to get a Mayor in the West Midlands elected. Remember that election? No? To be honest, best forgotten!
Basically, the heat was on and there was no time to lose.
However, we had some advantages. We had a good idea where we needed to concentrate to get the Labour vote out and we had members who wanted to campaign. And how they campaigned! Labour members, many I had never met before came out in droves bringing an enthusiasm that was inspiring. Indeed, we sometimes had to run to catch up with them to make their time as productive and efficient as possible. We have lessons to learn there to be honest!
We also made contact with the Labour club at Warwick University to emphasise the need to help support Coventry South. I admit, my hopes were not high but I needn’t have worried! As a group, throughout the campaign they were exceptionally hard working and enthusiastic. I can’t thank them enough.
All together, we had members and supporters of all ages working together in a way which demonstrated the best of the Labour Party in campaigning mode. Our members were amazing and inspirational. And from what I could tell, they enjoyed it too!
We also had a secret weapon: our canvassing system.
Basically, it is a Labour Party tool, which if used frequently is a campaigner’s best friend. It tells us where the vote is and urges us to contact voters to get out and vote. It is hard work and it can’t be done overnight. But, used properly and over a period of time, it can deliver a systematic and successful campaign. And boy did it work!
This, allied with Jeremy Corbyn’s inspired campaign led to a share of the vote never before recorded in Coventry South since its creation over twenty years ago. 55%. Incredible! Jeremy demonstrated a style and ability which reached out across generations and demographics. He was in his element and voters here liked it.
Contrast this with the shambolic Tory campaign which shot itself in the foot and head every day for weeks. Never have I witnessed such a mega melt down from a self-anointed strong and stable leader. Still when you believe all your own publicity, is it any wonder what you perceive to be strength is actually arrogance?
I don’t want to give too many of our campaigning secrets away suffice to say this. Based on all the data I have to hand, Coventry South Labour Party won every ward in the constituency. If local elections had been held on the same day, Labour would have won every seat on offer!
We must now build on this success for the future because the future is less certain than it has been for decades. Just because the Tories have gone backwards, don’t believe they are finished. They are not. They are wily, and they will use every trick in the book to retain power as the shady and expensive DUP deal graphically demonstrates.
We must be ready. Here in Coventry South we stand ready to rise to the challenge.