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ELECTION 2017: VIEW FROM THE FRONTLINE

Posted 14/06/2017

by Chris Mawdsley

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Following the election Chris has joined Iceni Projects as Associate in the Engagement (Manchester) team.  He has over a decade of political experience in the North West, including running three successful general election campaigns – 2010, 2015, 2017. He has also worked for a Member of Parliament and served as a Borough Councillor on a Lancashire council.

ELECTION 2017: VIEW FROM THE FRONTLINE

The British electorate aren’t keen on being told the outcome of the election before they’ve had chance to have their say.

Received wisdom in April was that Theresa May would be returned to Downing Street with a landslide to match those of Thatcher and Blair.  In the end she was returned with a reprimand from the electorate.

Turnout at the last three elections has been increasing.  An indicator that people feel there is something to fight for, a genuine choice to be made. Just 5 days ago that choice between the two main parties was starker than it has been for some time.

Here at Iceni our Engagement team were on the frontline as the election played out:

Labour Perspective:

A sense of foreboding permeated the initial weeks of the campaign as opinion polls pointed to a landslide victory for the Tories.  There were teething problems as frontbenchers forgot the funding commitments for key election pledges. On the doorstep there were many long-standing Labour voters still unsure about whether they could vote for a Corbyn-led Labour Party.

The election was playing out as everyone expected.

A manifesto launch attacking pensioners and children’s school meals, boredom amongst the media of the ‘strong and stable leadership’ mantra and the electorates recognition that general elections are about more than one issue shifted the entire momentum of the campaign.

Now it was the Labour Party that was energised, a leader who found his feet and an electorate who wanted to take a second look at what he could offer.

The picture on the doorstep was still a complex and complicated one.  Corbyn attracting back voters that had deserted Labour many years ago.  Equally Labour voters moving to the Tories for the same reason – Corbyn.

Tory voters not prepared to vote for May or even willing to give Labour a chance because of the “dementia tax” debacle.  Young voters coming out in numbers not seen for many years.

On the ground you would be hard pushed to see Conservative activists out on the street enthusing voters, except in a few key seats. A preference for direct mails and phone canvassing over good old door knocking as they struggled to spend the glut of donations they had received.

For all their spending power it seems the Conservatives failed to convert that into an electoral impact.  A problem rooted in their strategy and messaging.

Even in the final week it would be fair to say, Labour campaigns felt as if the situation had improved.  However, nobody expected the increases in majorities many candidates secured as we witnessed a return to two party politics.