Wakefield's Cllr Mike Walker explains how he turned wards run by Labour for 26 years into Tory wards with four figure majorities
This is the text of the talk that Cllr Mike Walker of Wakefield West ward gave at the 2008 Spring Forum in Gateshead. Last week he held his seat with a majority of 1,741.
This ward has 52% social housing, a very high deprivation index and is home to four Labour councillors. Labour controlled the ward with large majorities for 26 years.
We now fully control the ward and have done so for the last three elections - all with increasing four figure majorities. This will be repeated in six weeks' time.
We do not follow the normal approach of hordes of activists and floods of leaflets at election times. We are of the opinion that victories produced by such methods tend to be unsustainable and are significantly susceptible to national mood.
Large amounts of money and manpower are unnecessary. Our way of working is an ongoing and inclusive engagement with the electorate.
Our team is small – three full-time cllrs ensuring an almost daily presence on the streets backed up by 3-4 helpers to deliver the leaflet at election times. No election has cost more than £195.
To open up a sustainable presence in the Labour heartlands requires candidates who effectively work full time on the streets. These can be found amongst the retired. Ex police and prison officers make first class candidates. Our view is to source candidates amongst issues rather than within the Party organisation.
Our leaflets are very different. Their purpose is to be read. This is achieved by brevity, big print and unexpected headlines. The content is written for us on the streets.
Seamless integration with all the recognised and unrecognised community and voluntary groups is essential. The ethos of our approach is to serve everyone, always under promise, always over deliver and be totally honest. We have never held a surgery, never had our photographs on a leaflet and do not court the press. However, each of us rarely gets less than four calls/day for help.
We recognise that most people are motivated by issues rather than by politics. Perhaps most importantly, we understand that people who are most naturally at home with our beliefs, once we can break down the prejudices and gain their confidence, are the less well off. They are the ones who every day suffer the fall out from our broken society and the nonsense of Labour. Earn their trust and they will flock to us – and stay.
In Constituency terms our ward has the most members, raises the most money and has an inclusion policy whereby no event charges more than £5.
I leave these thoughts with you as a way of winning.