Archive for the 'Campaigning' Category


The last LE2018 post: How the main academic election predictions did

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

A key part of election analysis each year are the two academic seat projections which seek to project party Council gains and losses. These play a big part in setting the media narrative over party expectations.

Professions Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher have been doing this for years and their projections are based on what has been happening in the local council by-elections in the run up to polling day.

The other is from Oxford Professor Stephen Fisher who is a key member of the general election exit poll team. He runs the Elections etc site and this was his post
when he made his predictions last week. It should be noted that he allowed wide ranges of possibility in his calculations. He had the LDs, for instance, at -335 seats to +169.

“…my forecasting models this year are based on changes in the gaps between polls shares. For the Conservatives, who have traditionally faced many contests with the Liberal Democrats, their leads over both Labour and the Liberal Democrats matter. For Labour, the model is primarily based on the Labour lead over the Conservatives. Meanwhile, for the Liberal Democrats, their changing opinion poll performance relative to the Conservatives, but not Labour, has historically been correlated with headline local election seat changes.”

What made it more difficult this year was that a large number of wards were electing up to 3 councilors rather than the standard practice in many parts of 1/3 of the councillors being up at a time.

All three of the councils that the Lib Dems gained had all the councillors up for election which actually makes life so much easier for campaigners. Just about the same campaigning effort is required in winning a single seat as a multi member election.

The LD Council gains of S Cambs, Richmond and Kingston all had all seats up last Thursday and are in areas where there’s LD organisational strength both in the area and nearby.

The Tory activist and long standing PBer, Sean Fear in his observations of Wandsworth where he was working has spoken of the apparent lack of campaigning experience of the many LAB volunteers.

People who are well managed and know what they are doing can make a huge difference in the run up and on polling days particularly in local elections where turnout levels are low.

Mike Smithson


Fake news and how to deal with it

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

DNA is perplexingly long. Almost 98% of the human genome is non-coding: that is, it does not make protein in the cell. Some of that definitely does have some practical aspect but at present large parts of human DNA has no known function. Scientists are still trying to work out why. It is sometimes disparagingly known as junk DNA.

The internet, like DNA, is a mechanism for passing on information. Like DNA, large parts of the internet have no outwardly-obvious function. Perhaps there are scientists earnestly scrutinising cat videos trying to work out why they are there (perhaps junk DNA encodes cat videos).

In each case, the really dangerous part isn’t the junk, it’s the corruption of the important information. The nature of lying online has changed the way in which untruths have affected public debate. It’s well past time that we took stock.

Lying wasn’t invented on the internet. In the past, however, the ability to tell a narrative-changing lie was severely restricted. In the early part of the twentieth century, mass communication was in the hands of those who owned newspapers. The barriers to entry were high and newspaper audiences were large. The influence of the owners was enormous. Not for nothing were they called press barons.

We should have no false nostalgia for the age of the fourth estate. At least one British election was hugely influenced by press lies – the Zinoviev letter remains notorious. Journalism was seen as a byword for venality and unfairness. Moreover, much information that was of huge public interest was kept from the masses because the political classes could effectively control the small group responsible for public information. Edward VIII’s assignations with Wallis Simpson were not publicly known in Britain for many months (though covered in detail in other countries).

The internet destroyed the barriers to setting up information provision. Suddenly anyone with a computer and an internet connection, a readable writing style and with some information to offer could open for business.

Initially, this seemed like an unqualified positive. Want to know about opposition politics in Hong Kong? Developments in bee-keeping? The technical changes to Formula 1 constructor requirements? The internet could fulfil your needs more quickly and more comprehensively than any newspaper or magazine could ever hope to.

Some of this has been truly transformative. There are now more than 5.5 million articles on the English version of Wikipedia, a single repository of knowledge unlike anything ever previously seen in any previous encyclopaedia.

The worm in the apple took some time to break cover. It had long since been appreciated that online information that had not been peer-reviewed might be wrong or misleading through inadvertence or might present a highly tendentious view of the truth from the writer’s personal viewpoint. Readers were well-aware that some might present deliberate lies defensively. All of these problems were familiar from past experience with the media.

The idea of someone presenting deliberately untrue information as an active policy was something new. It had not previously been practical because of the gatekeepers at the top of the media who could bar access to the public. With that control gone, the way was open for anyone who wanted to launch a campaign of misinformation.

It started relatively innocently, with mischief-makers on Wikipedia tinkering for kicks. Some saw the business opportunity in heart-warming clickbait, whether or not the inspirational story was in fact true (see Daisy the Dog for more details).

Then the political implications began to sink in. “In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies”, Winston Churchill advised. It is apparent that many fighting wars online feel exactly that way.

Why are internet lies so successful? First, people want to believe stories that are congenial to their worldview. Corbynites, Leavers and those on the Trump train are obvious examples of this phenomenon, but those on the opposing side of each of these groups can be just as guilty of wishful thinking. Why scrutinise carefully a story that confirms your prejudices?

Secondly, debunking a lie takes time as the facts are established. Previously, journalists would have done the job. But the media’s response to the pressure on costs that the internet has driven was to cut those costs. Among the most expensive costs were the salaries of the journalists who did the fact-finding. So the people who used to do this just aren’t doing this job any more.

I’ve already quoted Winston Churchill so I’d better quote Oscar Wilde as well: “The truth is rarely pure and never simple”. Truth is fractal – the more closely you look at it, the more qualifications you need to put on the assertion. This leaves plenty of scope for argument and the original claim can get lost in an argument over an essentially trivial point. Moreover, the truth is usually quite humdrum. But (this is my thirdly) a lie is subject to no such need for restraint. It needs no nuance and can be as exciting as its creator wishes it to be. And who doesn’t like lurid excitement?

Fourthly, it’s human to want to lead the pack. Once CNN exhorted us to “Be the first to know”. Now we want to be the first to tell. Why check when you can be claiming kudos points?

So, in a news version of Gresham’s Law, bad information drives out good. We hoard the quality stuff and pass on the rubbish.

What can we do to combat this? In short, be sceptical. If you’re told something eyebrow-raising, look for a primary source to back it up. Try to get context.

Be especially sceptical of information that produces a strong emotional response from you. Ask yourself who wants to produce that response.

Don’t be part of the problem. If you are retweeting without first checking your information, you are a vector.

At the moment, fake news is achieving its proponents’ ends spectacularly. In the long run, it will subside as the internet public become more wary of their source material. For now, trust no one.

Alastair Meeks


To election junkies like me the Cambridge Analytica stuff is fascinating but where is it going to lead?

Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

Isn’t it just election losers seeking to undermine the legitimacy of results?

Given the amount of publicity the Cambridge Analytica story has had over the past few days both in the UK and in the US the big question is where is this all going to lead politically?

The Westminster SNP leader, Ian Blackford, used both his allocated PMQ questions in the clip shown above.

    In the US are the revelations going to make it that bit harder for Mr Trump to continue in office and in the UK will it assist those who are still trying to stall the referendum outcome to leave the EU?

What makes all this rather confusing is that using Facebook is not new. Obama in his 2012 campaign was the first to utilise social media in a big way in order to reach new audiences to ensure his re-election.

We then have the UK Conservative campaign in 2015 which is said to have used social media to enable the party to identify and target key voters in marginals resulting in an outcome that was far better than anybody had been predicting and indeed secured Mr Cameron his majority.

Nobody is questioning the validity of these two earlier uses of social media but they are now in relation to Brexit and of course to Mr Trump.

So far, from my perspective at least, there’s yet to be a “gotcha” moment which could have a political impact. Maybe that will change.

Mike Smithson


Chris Rennard’s “Winning Here” – the requiem for the battered Lib Dems or the handbook for another revival?

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

A review of Chris Rennard’s newly published “Winning Here”

    “ Paddy’s personal ratings were shown to be very high in our poll, even at the outset of the by- election campaign. This helped to persuade him of the validity of the other poll findings.”

Thus Chris Renard then the LD director of campaigns and elections coaxed Paddy Ashdown into accepting his formula for winning the 1993 Newbury by-election. The humour and shrewdness about people’s motivation mark this first volume of his political memoirs (just published by Biteback): it never becomes a mere boastful catalogue of Rennard’s election trophies.

Lord Rennard has measured out his life in by-elections. This book revisits a varied series of by-elections from Liverpool Edge Hill in 1979 to Dunfermline in 2006. He had learned early on how much the U.K’s third party needs the boost from by-election success to improve its tally of seats in general elections. And, as the apostle of targeting seats for general elections, he in effect simulated by-elections in those seats which gave full scope for Lib Dem campaign techniques.

His first chapter “An Unusual Introduction to Politics in Liverpool” describes his immersion in the community politics developed by the Liverpool Liberal councillors, year-round leafleting, canvassing and campaigning. These continue to characterise the party’s approach to elections.

Without self-pity he writes about his loving but straitened upbringing. It was a Liberal Councillor who had helped Rennard’s disabled mother to get her widowed mothers’ allowance. Orphaned when nearly 17, Rennard then showed abnormal self-reliance in getting through sixth form and university. This he combined with a massive workload for the local Liberals. His heroic labours take on a Victorian resonance, an example of self-help straight out of Samuel Smiles.

When the Edge Hill by-election was called shortly before the 1979 General Election, the Liberals nationally stood at 5% in opinion polls, damaged by the Lib-Lab Pact and the impending trial of former party leader. Jeremy Thorpe, for conspiracy to murder. The Liverpool Liberals were in good campaigning shape with Rennard already a seasoned and trusted part of the machine.

The victory of David Alton at Edge Hill meant the saving of the then Liberal Party. They moved up in the polls and held eleven of their fourteen seats in the General Election that followed immediately: a lesson not lost on Rennard. During the Alliance years he became Alton’s agent and helped him win the new seat of Mossley Hill from third place. He then became the East Midlands organiser, in charge of the West Derbyshire by- election in 1986 when the Liberals failed to take the seat by 100 votes.

In 1990 by which time Rennard had become the LD Director of Campaigns and Elections the IRA murdered Ian Gow – CON M.P for Eastbourne. Paddy Ashdown was reluctant to put forward a candidate for the ensuing by-election since he did not wish the party to be seen to benefit from terrorism. This caused Rennard to send Ashdown an irate memo setting out reasons to stand:“.. It will not be seen to be bold and courageous to recommend not fighting- it will make you a laughing stock in Walworth Road, Downing Street and eventually in the quality press that you threw away this chance.”

The LD victory in the subsequent by-election made it clear that the LDs were back in business: “a safe seat had been lost to a party that Mrs Thatcher herself had recently branded as a ” dead parrot” Six weeks later she resigned as Prime Minister.”

Successes in Ribble Valley and Kincardine and Deeside followed, strengthening the LDs in the run-up to GE1992 but the hoped-for big increase in LD seats failed to materialise. Rennard argues that speculation about a hung parliament and proportional representation, which he himself had wanted to avoid, was promoted by Ashdown in the last days of the 1992 – and this deterred Conservative voters whom the Lib Dems had hoped to win over.

    Rennard’s attitude towards Ashdown rather resembled that of a kindly school master trying to make sure that a gifted pupil bored with the syllabus does himself justice in the exams.

This pattern repeats itself in Rennard’s account of the LD revival which began with the Newbury by-election in 1993 where Rennard shows himself to have been a sceptic about Ashdown’s preoccupation with Lib-Lab cooperation, believing that careless talk about coalition would cost votes. Based on his Liverpool experience the Rennard approach in any election campaign was to find out the issues on voters’ minds and to deal with those issues rather than go on about constitutional reform which polling suggested was only of interest to a minute fraction of voters,

Rennard’s strategy at GE1997 delivered 46 LD seats, the largest third party contingent since 1929 a number which had increased to 62 at GE2005. By then Charles Kennedy had become the Liberal Democrat leader and Rennard writes sensitively about the alcoholism which was to cost Kennedy the leadership. Ever practical, however he saw the Dunfermline by-election of 2006 as a means to give the party a boost after Kennedy’s downfall.

Throughout the book Rennard refers – never at great length – to his health problems of depression and diabetes-, problems not eased by his long irregular hours and it was these problems which caused him to step down as the Paty’s chief executive.

Certainly this book is generous to colleagues and friends, and suggests he is loyal and considerate in his personal dealings.

Steve Lawson


Moore remains odds-on favourite in Alabama even though the Dems are spending nearly ten times as much on TV ads like these

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

Will the big spending Dems campaign produce a sensation?

The biggest current political betting markets in the UK are not about British politics at all. They were about the US with Trump’s survival being number one and the Alabama senate race, which takes place next Tuesday, number two.

The latter has the advantage of being settled very soon. Punters have only a few days to wait until they know whether their gamble has paid off or not.

At the moment on Betfair the Republicans, with their controversial candidate, is rated as an 80% chance with the Democratic man on 20%.

The polling has this very tight with most showing a small GOP lead though some have Moore behind.

In normal times with a normal candidate the GOP would be an absolute certainty. This is very strong territory for the party and it is only the allegations of sexual transgressions by several women that have given the Democratic Party any hope.

Everything is going to depend on turn out next Tuesday and here it is hard for pollsters to get this right.

My sense is that the Democratic campaign with ads like the ones above are designed to impede turnout amongst Republican voters and persuade Democratic ones that their man had a chance.

My view is that at current odds that the betting value is with the Democratic party who are worth a punt.

Mike Smithson


Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

All around the developed world, political loyalties are breaking down.  Electorates in Britain and the USA have gambled on reckless options in Brexit and Trump.  The hard right is a formidable political force in traditionally prosperous countries such as Sweden and Austria (where they may enter coalition government after the imminent election), and anti-immigrant voters have found their voice in France and Germany.  Secessionists ride high in Scotland and Catalonia.  Centrists find themselves outflanked on the left too, with centre left parties recording historic lows in many countries.  Everywhere you can find people who are mad as hell and who aren’t going to take it any longer.

Tolstoy began Anna Karenina by observing that “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”  So what of the unhappy British family?

The first thing to note is that actually the British family is not unhappy.  93% of respondents told Eurobarometer that they were fairly or very satisfied with their life in 2016, a percentage that has been fairly constant for three years and which has risen from 85% in 1973.   Whatever else this is, this is not an argument borne out of despair and strife.  However, a recent YouGov poll showed that Labour had taken the lead with ABC1s while the Conservatives had taken the lead with C2DEs.  The party of the middle class and the party of the working class are swapping roles.

Various explanations have been given for this political ferment.  Let’s take a look at some of them.

Anywheres v Somewheres

David Goodhart’s book “The Road To Somewhere” posits the idea that we are seeing a culture war between Somewheres (people rooted in a particular locality) and Anywheres (people who are educated and outward-looking).  The book has been widely praised. So I am sure that he will not particularly mind that I regard his theory as both simplistic and uninformative.

There is nothing new about these different groupings.  Aesop’s Fable of the Town Mouse and the Country Mouse shows just how longstanding these groupings are.  More than 20 years ago, Jarvis Cocker told a Greek woman with a thirst for knowledge that she would never understand how it felt to live your life without meaning or control.  Then we got Cool Britannia, showing that this faultline wasn’t going to get in the way of positivity or be particularly politically relevant for many years.

The divide between Somewheres and Anywheres is generational as much as anything else.  Many Anywheres have Somewhere parents and grandparents – it made for quite a few awkward Christmas dinners last year.  People settle down with age.

Why is local identity suddenly so much more important in guiding votes than it was previously?  The answer is not to be found in the attributes of Somewheres and Anywheres, and nor is the solution to solving the culture war that Mr Goodhart identifies.  What he is describing is a symptom, not the cause.   We must look elsewhere.


For many people, if you want to know the name of the game, immigration’s what you need.  Curiously, many different reasons are given why immigration is important.

Some argue that voters are motivated by the impact that immigration has on jobs.  This seems unlikely.  First, the jobs market continues to set records, with employment at record highs, unemployment at 40 year lows and job vacancies at record highs.  Secondly, those agitating about immigration are disproportionately likely to be retired, so they have no economic stake in the jobs market.  Thirdly, according to a recent YouGov poll, 61 per cent of Leave supporters believe significant damage to the UK economy is a price worth paying to get your way on Brexit and 39 per cent would sacrifice their job or a family member’s job for Brexit (a percentage that was still higher among the oldest, retired, age groups).  A solely economic interpretation of immigration is inadequate to explain what is going on.  For the same reason, I am sceptical that any perceived impact that immigration has on wage growth has much to do with this.

Nevertheless, with so many voters naming immigration as one of the most pressing subjects in polls, it seems likely to be playing a part in any Morlock intifada.  It is impossible to ignore the unpalatable possibility that it is a simple dislike of foreigners that makes immigration so unpopular with some.   But just as there have always been Somewheres and Anywheres, there have always been people who didn’t like foreigners.  Has anything changed to make this more important?

There is a loose inverse correlation between levels of immigration in an area and hostility to it (a phenomenon also seen in election results in the USA and Germany).  This partly reflects that fact that immigrants are unsurprisingly more in favour of immigration than native.  It is sometimes suggested that anti-immigration sentiment is driven in low immigration areas by observation of what has happened in high immigration areas.  This would be more convincing if the areas most hostile to immigration didn’t include some of the most deprived areas of the country.

It is possible that the competition that immigrants appear to provide for public sector resources may play a part.  In most areas this is not particularly rational because immigrants are not particularly heavy users of public sector resources, but at a time when public sector resources are under strain, any additional strain on them is going to come under scrutiny.

This in turn leads on to an entirely different explanation for the zeitgeist.


Cards on the table: this is my preferred explanation.  The mood of discontent is not confined to surly yokels who could double as extras from Deliverance.  Explanations such as immigration which seek to explain the rise of the far right, are missing what’s motivating the rise of the left as well.

Philip K Dick wrote in Valis about, among other things, drug-addled hippies who believed that the Roman Empire had never ended.  I’m no hippie – can’t grow the hair – but I believe that the financial crash never ended.  Exhibit A is the national debt, which continues to grow rapidly.

The consequent austerity has created losers in many different groupings and it has fallen out of favour.  The (still mighty) deficit did not feature in the 2017 general election.  Votes were won by promising to spend money on pet projects, whether Brexit or tuition fees or uncutting women’s pensions or whatever.  The public want to see signs that the government can spend as well as tax. When David Cameron said that we’re all in this together, he was being truthful.  A lot of people, however, were unhappy about that or have since lost patience.

Citizens of nowhere

In this regard, big business was a trendsetter.  Bob Diamond said as early as 2012 that the time for contrition by banks was over.  This, however, was not an idea whose time had come.

The public has been outraged by a succession of stories that suggest that many companies, especially internet companies, see tax as something for the little people.  Starbucks, Amazon, Google, Facebook and now Airbnb have come under the spotlight.  That they have properly paid all tax due misses the point: the system seems set up for the benefit of megacorporations and skewed against the ordinary people.

Nor does the private sector seem particularly competent.  Southern Railways are a byword for dysfunctionality.  Quasi-utilities like banks and phone companies seem incapable of keeping data safe.


So voters are seeing public services under strain.  They are feeling the taxes but not seeing the spending.  Meanwhile, the private sector is also failing to impress.  The country is changing and not in ways that the voters like.  Johnny Rotten finished the last Sex Pistols gig with the line “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”  Right now, the public have that feeling.  Politicians who fail to understand that are in trouble.

Alastair Meeks



Looking at conference rhetoric – the politics of fear and the politics of hope

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

A guest slot by CycleFree

It has become a truism that political campaigns based on fear are doomed to fail. Positive visions, hope and excitement are what we want, apparently. And there is some evidence to support this: Corbyn’s genuinely inspiring campaigning for what he has said and believed these last four (five?) decades, the increasingly desperate Remain campaign and, of course, May’s abysmal GE campaign, which wholly failed to explain why Corbyn’s choices and what they say about his character, judgment and, therefore, how he would govern would affect voters and in ways which resonated with them.

But is this entirely true? Labour’s campaigns have always stoked fears that the NHS will be destroyed if the Tories are in power. Leave’s campaign last year was based in very large part on fear of foreigners, specifically fear of Turks and young male migrants/refugees from unsavoury parts of the world. Corbyn would likely never have won as many middle class/middle aged voters as he did were it not for the latter’s fear that the Tories would take their homes and savings in old age if they fell ill, a fear skilfully exploited by Labour with the “dementia tax label. In both the latter cases, the campaign which won (the referendum or argument) was the one which best exploited people’s fears as well as presenting an appealing vision of a better way (No University Fees! Keep Your Home! Freedom from the EU!) however unachievable, superficial or lacking in detail that vision may have been or, in the case of Brexit, is now being shown as being.

And so to this week’s Labour conference. Forget the now inevitable argument about whether Labour is tackling anti-Semitism within its ranks (it isn’t and it won’t). Forget the ignorant insults aimed at a 96 year old man and his grandson (take a bow Emma Dent-Coad, MP for Kensington. That’s just what your Grenfell Towers constituents elected you for). Forget Shami making a fool of herself yet again suggesting laws one doesn’t like can be ignored. After all she is only following an earlier Baroness and Attorney-General who thought laws were only for others. Forget even Corbyn’s speech: undoubtedly well received in the hall and elsewhere.

No. The most significant thing said this week was McDonnell’s statement that the next Labour government would not be a traditional” Labour one. We would be well advised to take this statement seriously. Traditionally, Labour governments have all sought to reassure as well as be radical: reassure voters that the economy would be safe, if more fairly run, that taxes would only be on the rich, that public services would be nurtured and valued, reassure business that Labour would invest, reassure the markets that Labour would be a sensible custodian of the nation’s finances.

McDonnell’s and Corbyn’s primary aim is not to reassure, other than as a tactic. It is to change very radically Britain’s economic and political settlement. And the “run on the pound” and “war gaming” remarks are not an error. They are an indication that they intend seeing their measures through and taking whatever steps may be necessary to do so. The fact that these may be unprecedented or harmful or have unintended consequences or hurt those who have voted for them may count for little or nothing. So what might these measures be if, say, money starts flowing out of Britain the day after McDonnell gets made Chancellor? Capital controls? Temporary bank closures? Limits on how much people are allowed to take out? A tax on all savings held in banks in the UK above a certain limit? Conversion of savings into bonds or shares? Seizure of savings above a certain limit?

Alarmist? Improbable? Why? All these things happened to ordinary people in Cyprus a mere 5 years ago. Sure they happened as part of a bank bailout and were blessed by the EU and there were special circumstances: the fact that so much Russian and other “dirty” money was in Cyprus made it easier for some to justify. Still, if it happened there, it could happen here and justifications would be easy for Labour to construct. No-one loves the rich or the markets or bankers, especially if they are seen as obstructing an elected government. For the past 30 years or so, the assumption everywhere has been that you can’t or shouldn’t even try to buck the markets. But bucking the markets is exactly what Corbyn and McDonnell want to do. The Tories would do well not to underestimate both the breadth of Corbyn and McDonnell’s vision nor their determination.

If those opposed to this want to make the case for why it will be harmful, they need to start some war gaming of their own. They need to explain how such measures will affect ordinary voters now, not by reference to the 1970’s: not “the markets won’t wear it” or “remember Callaghan and the IMF” but “you won’t be able to pay for that foreign holiday or buy stuff from Amazon in Luxembourg” or 20% of the money Mum had put by for her care has been taken or “the money saved/to be given to us as a deposit for a home will be in shares you won’t be able to sell for years” or “Dad has to pay a wealth tax on his house out of his pension and can’t”. They need to start demolishing, forensically, item by item, those Labour proposals which won’t work – and only those – and they need to start making the case now.

Fear of losing what you have is a powerful motivator, as the reaction to the dementia tax showed. Fear of being made worse off is equally powerful, as the reaction to university fees and interest rates on the loans also showed. It is a key part of any effective campaign. It is not the only one, of course. It won’t necessarily win on its own. So we will have to wait and see for the Tory Conference whether the Tories are capable of attacking Labour intelligently or only each other and, more critically, whether they have any positive story to tell the country.



Corbyn keeps his shirt on in Poldark country

Monday, September 11th, 2017

Video: Footage of Jeremy Corbyn campaigning in Redruth last month.

We all know that Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t need to take his shirt off to get people singing “Ooo”. So the Labour leader was fully clad when he fetched up in Poldark country for Labour campaign rally in high summer. If he’d shown any inclination to emulate Aidan Turner’s naked sea bathing and shirtless gardening  in the BBC period drama his minders would doubtless have warned him against validating Theresa May’s bizarre comment in the General Election about “Jeremy Corbyn going alone and naked” into Brexit negotiations.

I was in Camborne because the number 39A bus from Penzance went straight past the door of our B&B. So, while the rest of the family got on with swimming and surfing, I set off to check up on Jeremy Corbyn’s “summer-campaigning blitz” in scores of Tory-held marginals.

His events team had found him a dramatic backdrop which had links to Poldark. The chimney and winding gear of a former tin and copper mine is part of the Heartlands venue  which has Unesco World Heritage Site status because of the historical importance of Cornish mining and miners, as a museum displays explains. “At one time, when tin was the most wanted metal on Earth, Cornwall and its miners ruled the world …. they’ve taught many a miner how to drill miles underground and out to sea. In short, they changed the course of engineering and mining history.”

The two and a half thousand who turned up in the sunshine to the open air rally were told by the leader he wished he’d campaigned in Cornwall in the General Election. He’ll undoubtedly be back next time.  Even without a sprinkling of  the help of Corbyn charisma the Cornish Labour registered some striking advances.

In Camborne and Redruth they pushed their vote up by nearly 20 per cent, leapfrogging the Lib Dems, and coming within 1,600 votes of gaining the Tory seat. It’s in the top thirty Labour targets needing a swing of less than 2 per cent. In neighbouring Truro and Falmouth the Labour vote shot up by 12,000, a 22% increase, making the Tories vulnerable to a swing of around 4 %. At the Camborne rally, Corbyn flanked by Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth, laid in to Tory failures in the NHS. Earlier he’d visted a hospital that is struggling to recruit staff.

Back at Westminster after his summer on the road the Labour leader is committed to a broad programme of policy development. This week he will give his backing to a significant development which has been drawn up by the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and the chair of Labour Business, Hamish Sandison.

Corbyn will urge all CLPs to appoint Business Liaison Officers in parallel with existing Trade Union Liaison Officers. He is likely to recall the key statement in Labour’s manifesto: “Labour understands that wealth creation is a collective endeavour – between workers, entrepreneurs, investors, and government. Each contributes and each must share fairly in the rewards.”

The aim, in the words of Hamish Sandison, is to show that “Labour is the natural party of business”  Labour Business is affiliated to the party as a socialist society and in a Huffington Post article the chair argued: “We are the country’s largest political party, with more than half a million members, and we almost certainly have more business people in our ranks than any other political party in Britain. Our members own or run small businesses, work in medium and large sized companies, and hold senior management positions throughout the business community.”

I believe this is a significant initiative. Demonstrating that the Tories have failed on the economy is important but it’s not enough. Labour have to show they can make the country better off — and how. A strategic partnership with businesses of all sizes is a vital part of that.

Don Brind