Weirdly, rather as if Jeremy Corbyn himself or one of his team had been reading this blog (or, more likely, one of many other articles and blogs making the same points), an email arrived from.him yesterday setting out a new campaign strategy designed to mobilise the new membership to win elections. This can only be a good thing, and I’m very glad to see a move away from the belief in an amorphous “social movement” which will somehow sweep the country. However the party still has a vast amount of ground to cover and the new strategy isn’t going to answer all of the problems.
One of the biggest problems Jeremy Corbyn and his team face is that his supporters are simply in the wrong places. A New Statesman analysis in May of new Labour members found that the vast majority of them (47%) live in London and the South of England. 28% live in Labour’s “Northern heartlands”, and only 20℅ live in Wales and the Midlands, home of Nuneaton Man, the new incarnation of Basingstoke Man, and the sort of voter who has to be won over if Labour is going to win power again.
I wondered yesterday if my friends who support Jeremy Corbyn and who largely live in the South would be prepared to campaign for Jeremy Corbyn at all (I don’t mean support, post Facebook memes and go to rallies; I mean deliver leaflets and canvass, the meat of political campaigns on the ground). Long experience of working with people has told me that while lots of people are happy to support things, many many fewer will actually do anything more than the bare minimum. That’s why petitions are so popular, but why also, if you want to reach your MP, it’s far better to write a short personal email, as far fewer people will take the trouble to write an email, so MPs tend to pay them much more attention.
On the other hand, people who join political parties are perhaps already more disposed to be the sort of people who will do something, so let’s be generous and say that 10% of them will be prepared to actually do some actual campaigning. That works out, at a generous estimate, at about 50,000 people, at the current numbers. Assuming that the numbers stay stable (and there is no reason to assume they will – membership of political parties tends to peak at times of high activity and partiularly when people feel they are joining a winning team), that’s not a lot of people to mount a big, long term boots on the ground political campaign in Wales, the Midlands, the North and Scotland, especially as half of them live in the South.