Party appoints Obama adviser to help achieve ambition of winning 60-seat majority in 2015 general election
The Labour shadow cabinet has named the 106 seats it is planning to target at the next election. The move is a sign of its belief that it can secure a 60-seat majority over all the other political parties. Such a majority would require a 6.3% swing.
Labour announced on Tuesday that it has appointed Arnie Graf, one of the President Barack Obama’s advisers, to train 1,000 election staff to run local campaigns in the target seats by the end of this year. The party will concentrate resources in seats Labour thinks it can win, rather than running a defensive campaign to prevent losses in seats where it has a small majority.
Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy chairman, said the party was hoping to capture 16 Liberal Democrat seats, including the high-profile scalp of Simon Hughes, the deputy leader. If Labour won all 106 seats, it would have a majority of 80.
In total, Labour says it is targeting 86 Conservatives seats, 16 Liberal Democrats, 2 Plaid Cymru, 1 Scottish Nationalist and the one Green Party seat in Brighton. Of these, 88 were lost in 2010 and three never held by Labour between 1997 and 2010. In 2010 Labour suffered its largest loss of share of the vote, 6.5 %, since 1931, and is bound to recover, if only because of an expected fall in the Lib Dem share of the total vote from 23.6 %.
Labour has added four Lib Dem seats with large majorities: Bermondsey (Simon Hughes), Cambridge (Julian Huppert), Bristol West (Stephen Williams) and Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland).
And the party will not target any Conservative seat requiring a swing of more than 7.07%. This means Derbyshire South held by Heather Wheeler with a majority of 7,128 is the summit of its ambition.
The party so far has 30 candidates ready in its target seats; the majority should be selected by the end of the summer.
Watson said: “The reason this is so ambitious and so strong is that it has a working assumption that all our sitting MPs will be returned. We are determined to be a one-term opposition.” He argued that, in Labour-Conservative marginals, “the collapse in the Lib Dem vote has helped us over the past 18 months, since in most areas in most seats the majority of Lib Dems have come over to us”.
The target seats within England are split relatively evenly, with 14 in the north-west, 15 in the West Midlands, 13 in eastern England, 12 in London and eight in the East Midlands.
Labour needs a uniform national swing of 1.7 % to become the largest party, a 4.45 % swing for a majority of one, but an overall majority of 20 requires a 5.3 % swing.
Referring to the party’s financial difficulties, Watson said he was being candid in admitting that, “it is not like the 1990s; we cannot have an organiser in every seat. These are the seats where we will have to be working with our members to help deliver our election structure . I want to see a Barack Obama organiser in every ward in every one of our key seat constituencies. Broadly speaking, that will be about 1,000 trained members and volunteers by the end of this year.”
The Conservatives are still pinning their hopes on voters’ anxiety that Labour is not capable of making tough decisions on the economy, as well as signs that voters still blame Labour more than the coalition for the need to make cuts.
In an analysis for ConservativeHome, the Tory peer Lord Ashcroft said: “Voters now face a clear choice of economic programmes: one that sounds intuitively right to many, however much they dislike it, and one that seems to promise less debt if only we would borrow more. When it comes to making the decision, voters may well opt to see through what has been started.”