Coffee House

Is Labour aiming for victory, or just the largest party, in 2015?

28 February 2014

You won’t catch Ed Miliband or David Cameron admitting that their best hope of governing after 2015 is in a coalition or a minority government. But what if their party machines have already decided that this is what’s going to happen anyway? There are secret discussions within the Labour party about scaling back the number of ‘target seats’ (the seats that it will pour the most resources into in order to win – full list here) from the official list of 106 to 80, or even just 60, which means that some in Labour think it is better to aim to be the largest party rather than out-and-out victory. I explain why party officials think this is wise and what Ed Miliband could do to stop it in my Telegraph column today.

This pruning of the key seats list could happen quite subtly: there is no need for a new list of 60 or 80 seats to be published. What would be more likely is that Labour HQ decides to move organisers it has funded from constituencies who rank below the cut-off point on the new list to those that are higher than 60 or 80 or wherever the axe falls.


Senior Labour sources are insisting that they are ambitious about their target seat plans. But even when it was being drawn up, HQ staff were raising concerns, and when he was campaign co-ordinator, Tom Watson pushed for 87 seats as the most realistic target in a paper in 2012, not the 106 that the party then settled upon. So perhaps scaling back the list is a sensible recognition that spreading resources too thinly could damage the party’s chances of winning those seats. But the closer the pruned-back list gets to 60, the more pessimistic HQ staff are about Ed Miliband’s ability to secure a majority.

P.S. HQ staff are apparently also quite pessimistic because of a new seating plan in their offices which one source tells me is ‘causing chaos’. Parties are obsessed with their seating plans for their headquarters: Grant Shapps reorganised the CCHQ layout almost as soon as he started as party chairman.

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  • Noa

    So why has nothing been done to remedy it?

  • Conway

    That picture is frightening! Is that intentional?

  • Adam2014

    non-violent revolution is the only course of action

  • Adam2014

    no to another Labour,Tory or Liberal Government full stop get rid of them now not 2015 and put an end to them & the twin abominations of the EU & ECHR in Our Country

  • Monkey_Bach

    All that really matters is that the Conservative Party has the second largest number of MPs after the next general election in order to render them powerless and finish the careers of lowlifes like David Cameron, George Osborne and dangerous, deranged, messianic and entirely incompetent people like Iain Duncan Smith. Bar some sort of dark satanic miracle, as things stand, this looks like a done deal. Many lives will be saved and plans to unleash avalanches of injustice and misery foiled as a result.

    • HookesLaw

      How is life fresh out of Propaganda School? No one stoops as low as Harman and Hewitt.

      • Monkey_Bach

        Presumably if Ms. Harman and Ms. Hewitt were ever seen bending over double they were probably trying, against the odds, risking deformity by dint of permanent curvature of the spine, to stoop low enough to shake the hand Mr. Grant Shapps no less. Individuals don’t win or lose elections policies and past records do. Ever heard Aesop’s fable about the scorpion and the frog? The one where the scorpion sting the frog doming them both to death because it couldn’t resist its evil nature? Well the Conservative Party and the electorate are analogous to said scorpion and frog politically: the Tories could have had two or more terms in office if they could have resisted their inner nature and not acted so harshly and cruelly; but they couldn’t and now will pay the price by being booted out of office next year.

        We are what we are I suppose.

        The nasty party cannot escape from the urge to act nastily.

  • FF42

    I am not an expert, but I would expect them to concentrate on what RealClearPoltics calls “battleground” seats. These are seats where polls show the two parties are within 5% of each other. There may be seats that are currently held by the Conservatives, which Labour expect to win, but aren’t battleground seats. That’s because the national polls have moved more than 5%. In that case the polls in those seats might show a bigger than 5% gap.

  • Smithersjones2013

    I’d treat any speculation about the Labour Party’s election strategy with a pinch of salt. Unlike the Tory party the one thing that should be noted about Labour is they do generally maintain discipline (even if it means purging whole groups of senior party members as they did with the SDP and they did with the Blairites). The other thing we know is Labour is inherently deceptive. Therefore it is more than likely that any rumours emanating from senior levels of the Labour Party are as likely to be a distraction meant to fool gullible opponents than actual indicators of a lack of confidence at their electoral prospects.

    The polls are stubbornly showing Labour has a clear 5-7 point lead. The Tories need a lead of the same magnitude to stay in power let alone win a majority. Labour are on target to win a majority. Why would they be insecure about their situation?

    • Alexsandr

      you need more than money. you need foot soldiers to deliver leaflets and to get the vote out to the polling stations. oh and to fill in postal votes. Dunno which parties will have those foot soldiers and which wont.

  • Hello

    I do wonder if aiming for a coalition makes a majority more likely. Come the election people are going to realise that a coalition just means that every policy goes out the window and manifestos get reinvented behind closed doors. It’s essentially a vote for uncertainty.

    From that perspective, it might not be a bad thing if coalition was seen as a way that Cameron might excuse himself from an EU referendum. Would Ukippers want to take the chance that the pledge might disappear in coalition?

    • Conway

      UKIP-pers know perfectly well that the pledge will disappear anyway. The time will not be right, there haven’t been enough repatriations (there won’t be any, in fact, because of acquis communautaire), Cameron won’t have a majority (pretty much guaranteed without boundary reform) – you name it, there will be an excuse for it.

  • Kitty MLB

    Heaven help us! that photo, blood curdling the reincarnation of Rasputin, with a zombie.
    ‘he’s mad that trusts the tameness of the wolf’- Do we trust Milipede?
    Quite honestly the entire modern political class are a effervescent mixture
    pomposity , egotism, dysfunction by the barrel load and incompetence,
    and they most certainly do not represent us.
    Yet even so allowing Labour, on its own or in a coalition, and it
    will not even be Milipede, more like Balls and Cable- heaven help us.

  • Noa

    No doubt the Conservative party, like its Labour counterpart, is similarly targeting a reduced number of seats given in declining popularity and the mass desertion of its footsoldiers to a solidly expanding UKIP.
    Their targeting of seats is a response to the continuing apathy, indeed political agnosticism, of the british electorate towards what has become an elitist, engorged and corrupt political system, which has failed the nation and its people through consistant incompetent and malign policies.

  • Lady Magdalene

    That the “choice” for PM is between this geek and the utterly useless Cameron should be a matter of complete and utter shame to the Labour and Conservative Parties.
    They are both a complete embarrassment.

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      Perhaps it should also be a matter of shame for the rest of us. We are all so busy ‘getting on with our lives’ that we have, through our collective indifference and preoccupations, allowed a clique of preposterous, incompetent, shallow, greedy and self-obsessed moral bankrupts to run the country. All of them are incapable of admitting error, basic hulmility and decency and none of them have any beliefs beyond their obsession with retaining power and privilege. I am not disagreeing with anything you say but I also believe that the public should shoulder its share of the blame for allowing this ghastly, patronising shower of sanctimonious hypocrites to blight our lives.

      • Lady Magdalene

        True. Tribal voters have a lot to answer for. I’m not one of them … I haven’t voted Conservative since the Maastrict betrayal and I’ve never voted Labour or LibDem.

        • arnoldo87

          Not sure how old you are m’lady, but did this not make you a tribal voter prior to Maastricht?

          • Nicholas chuzzlewit

            As long as she is not voting for Labour the party of lies, lying and liars that is alright by me.

            • Whizjet

              But by voting UKIP, she is essentially ushering in Labour and Miliband. Madness.

              • Nicholas chuzzlewit

                Sadly you are right. The heart may be in the right place but the reality is an incompetent, unprincipled, amoral, preposterous sixth-form Marxist as prime minister.

              • Noa

                The Opinium Poll in the Observer shows Labour’s lead over the Conservatives has dropped to 5% (down four points on a fortnight ago).
                Labour is on 34%, the Conservatives 29% (up one point), Ukip is on 19% (up two points) and the Liberal Democrats are on 10% (up two points).

                • Whizjet

                  The Labour constituency gerrymandering will still take a huge amount of overcoming – we should all be concerned about that. Labour have an astonishingly unfair advantage.

          • Lady Magdalene

            How many times do you have to vote to become a tribal one? I’m not that old….

      • dmitri the impostor

        I think the share due to public passivity is relatively slight. What is most to blame is the creeping professionalisation of politics and the rise of the Spad. The first career politicians occur considerably further back than the Milibands and Cameron. Take a look, for example, at the CV of Fat Pang. The rest of the blame can be laid at the door of the University of Oxford and its bid to create an enarque class via the preposterous degree of ‘PPE’.

        • Nicholas chuzzlewit

          Good points but we still let it happen. Agreed, I would ban PPE graduates from all future employment until they had obtained a more useful and exacting qualification like needlework etc.

          • CharlietheChump

            And their own pair of rubber gloves

      • Patricia

        “I also believe that the public should shoulder its share of the blame for allowing this ghastly, patronising shower of sanctimonious hypocrites to blight our lives.”

        Well, a post-Labour period is always such a mop and bucket time that we placed too much trust in Cameron. We thought that he understood what we wanted and would clear up the mess – sadly, we were wrong.

        • Nicholas chuzzlewit

          Agreed Patricia although rather than “mop and bucket” we will probably need some industrial cleaners in after milidiot and his gang have done their worst after 2015. There is one firm called IMF who I think we used once before to clean up after Healey, Callaghan etc.

        • Adam2014

          let Labour back in and watch the Country fall over the proverbial cliff

      • Kennybhoy

        Indeed. Politicians reflect the electorate.

      • HookesLaw

        And where are all the enlightened heroes who are going to take their place? Look at the rest of the world and look down through history and we do not do so bad for politicians. Why should people – ‘ordinary’ people for want of a better word – give up a regular life and living only to enter a world where the likes of the numpties on threads like this can casually smear them?
        And enter a world too where there are endless problems that in fact have no solutions? Where all that is on offer is endless conflict and endless disappointment as ‘events’ derail and unravel all your policies?

        You might equally rail against the inadequate and ignorant and biased reporting we get.

    • HookesLaw

      As ever we see you spouting hysteria based on invention. The govt are far from useless and have steered a sound economic course. In response we see a bunch of sad inadequates incapable of looking beyond their own base prejudice just barking and howling at the moon.

      • Lady Magdalene

        The “Help to Buy (Votes) Scheme is re-inflating the housing bubble nicely … if that’s what you mean by a sound economic course?

        • Mynydd

          Quite right; by HookesLaw logic when the last Labour government inflated the housing bubble bad economics, when the present Conservative led government re-inflated the housing bubble good economics.

    • Whizjet

      Perhaps it should also be a matter of shame for those who waste a vote on a Party that cannot possibly win, or even make a difference. Perhaps the thought of voting for a Party Leader who admits to not having even read the drivel (his words) of his own party’s manifesto should also be an embarrassment. I wonder who the Kippers will blame, when, after voting for a Europhobe anti immigration Right Winger, they have to realise that they have wittingly elected a Left Wing Europhile pro-immigration party.
      By the time we have been been bankrupted, a Miliband Government, borne on the wings of wasted UKIP votes, will have taken us so deep, so close to Brussels that there is no escape ever again.
      Really well done, all you UKIP swivel eyed loons.

  • William Haworth

    Ed Milliband; Britain’s decline in an ill-fitting suit.

  • Makroon

    Given that the LibDems are making a determined effort to be more Labour than Labour – both in their bash the “rich” / bash business inclinations and their shear incompetence, it kind of makes sense to take their support for Labour for granted.
    Red is not ‘improving with age’, is he.

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