How Labour’s campaign plans reveal its enormous electoral ambition

7 Min Read
How Labour's campaign plans reveal its enormous electoral ambition

Keir Starmer has a Labor pledge card (Credit: PA Images/Alamy)

5 minutes reading

PoliticsHome has obtained documents showing how Labor will target voters on its doorstep throughout the campaign – and they show the sheer scale of Keir Starmer’s ambition in this election.

On election day, the Labor Party will not bother appealing to reliable supporters, which is the opposite strategy of recent years.

Instead, activists participating in the get-out-the-vote operation on July 4 will contact: those who promise to vote for them but are lousy about showing up on that day; those who have historically voted Labor but have not recently pledged to do so; undecided who the models should be Labour; and, most optimistic of all, supporters of minor parties.

‘Squeeze’ voters – those who have said they support the Greens or Reform, for example – will receive ‘tailored and targeted messages’ and ‘two-horse race’ literature throughout the campaign. They are given priority for candidate visits during election week.

“Persuasive” voters – lately undecided – will be patronized by candidates and “influential canvassers.” Where there are too many voters to contact the candidate alone in a winnable seat, candidates from unwinnable seats are being brought in to help connect with compelling candidates, Campaign Confidential is told. They are known as ‘trusted messengers’.

But before election day, hero voters – the Tory-to-Labor switchers in 2019 – are seen as the main target. “For every 10 voters we tried to reach in the 2024 local elections, we got an average of one vote, while for every 10 hero voters we tried to reach, we got an average of four votes,” the Labor newspaper said.

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The party plans to use a more sophisticated triage of voters than ever, with organizers advised to “use the demographic profile groups to tailor your message to the life experiences of these voters.” [hero] voters”.

Inside the party headquarters

At 4 Matthew Parker Street, some of the staff are already there at 5:30 am. On the plus side, there’s a prize for whoever is involved in the previous day’s biggest Labor misstep: campaign manager Isaac Levido hands out a toy koala or kangaroo (details vary) to the lucky Tory staffer.

Despite a dismal launch and poor polling, there is a fairly positive atmosphere within CCHQ. They are hopeful that at some point the election will discover a strategic weakness in Labour’s message: “change” to what exactly?

The thinking goes: where is the motivation to vote for a Labor government that promises no more money, just reforms, just like the Conservatives? “Pointing at us and shouting ‘change’ means the next 43 days will not be enough,” said a Tory source.

Labor will get a slightly later start at its Southwark headquarters. At 6.30am, national campaign coordinator Pat McFadden has a meeting of the core strategy group – 10 key people including McFadden and his deputy Ellie Reeves.

At 7.30am, the next layer of the campaign – the larger delivery group – meets, inviting the field chief, the head of external relations and the party fixers. Another meeting in the early afternoon ensures every part of the operation is covered, with representatives from the press, policy, visits, parliamentary party and the leader’s office.

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The atmosphere is said to be professional and collaborative, although there has been a lot of hushed conversation around selections in the horse trade in recent days.

Some staffers were moved to an overflow office, but to keep them happy, people from each team were moved instead of entire teams. The new headquarters – complete with a decent kitchen – is considered the best the party has ever had.

“Things will go wrong, but we will pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off,” Morgan McSweeney told them all last week.

Location, location, location

Conservatives say there has been a “huge increase” in the number of local candidates selected and the party’s message clearly recognizes that local is the only way.

“It’s a way to distance yourself from things you’re not happy with,” says one leading activist. “Hyperlocal campaigns are the new way to do this. We can’t completely abandon the party brand, but local campaigns are best,” confirms another.

“It’s going to be local, local, local,” says one Conservative candidate PoliticsHome editor Adam Payne.

Runners and riders

The short campaign starts today – which incidentally means that spending limits apply from now on – and the parties are trying to finalize the selections before the legal deadline for nomination papers on June 7.

For Labour, assuming there are no further deselection attempts, that will simply be a matter of approving the list of candidates at a meeting on Tuesday. For the Tories, this still means the enormous task of choosing a staggering number of candidates, with an estimated 180 yet to be elected at the time of writing.

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Ironically, given Labour’s long-standing focus on internal democracy, the ruling body is pushing candidates wholesale to local parties, while CCHQ goes through the longer process of central shortlisting before association votes are held. One approach makes a party look efficient yet autocratic; the other keeps the members happy while at the same time creating the impression of disorder.

The key question: who has vetted them all better in such a short time? The answer will be revealed over the next five weeks and the next Parliament…

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