Friday, 7 May 2010

The choices we make - why Dismore has lost Hendon

Andrew Dismore very narrowly losing Hendon is depressing news. Three Tory MPs in Barnet - argh! They'll be cock-a-hoop.

I don't think if I'd stayed in the constituency and knocked up for Dismore yesterday I could have won him the seat! But if I'd known it would be so close, I might well have stayed and tried... We choose what to do based on assessments we make and we sure as hell don't have perfect knowledge.

I said I would go to Hayes and Harlington to knock up for John McDonnell MP. The local Labour Party was nervous that he might lose; the Tories were suggesting they might win.

In addition to the general disillusionment among previous Labour voters (not, as it turns out, as deep as we all predicted), McDonnell had particular pressures on him.

With the Labour government proposing the third runway at Heathrow, a significant chunk of the constituency was in danger of being literally obliterated. The Tories were oppposing the runway. And there are two immigration detention centres close to the airport, so the anti-im/migration rhetoric in the election has had particular resonance there.

John McDonnell opposed the third runway - from conviction, not just professional self-interest! - and is not anti-im/migrant. In the event, he has won with a stonking majority, his share of the vote only slightly down.

So, I wasn't needed there at all!

However, as miserable as I am about Matthew Offord's wafer-thin win, I don't feel too guilty personally about Dismore. I did things in his favour which in their very small way might have helped to make the vote close.

The local Labour Party should reflect hard on whether it is doing enough to engage local members and residents. Do Labour voters feel any ownership over the party? I certainly don't. Not so long ago, trade unionists would almost automatically have turned out to canvass for Labour. Trade union branches would have sent delegates to the Constituency Labour Party meetings. Those days are passed - can we get them back?

Dismore is reported by the Times series as saying:
“I don't think there was anything me or my team could have done. If we had had more support in door knocking I think we could have won.

“The Conservatives had the Ashcroft funded billboards all over the borough and we just couldn't compete with that sort of money.”
Dismore and Labour politicians like him need not just to seek scapegoats and apportion blame, but to think about what they can do to revive active support for Labour at the grassroots.

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