What made the difference for Labour? Ordinary people knocking on doors
Emma Rees, national organiser for Momentum, writes in the Guardian: Proposing a transformational manifesto mattered. Corbyn’s warmth and authenticity resonated. Labour’s energetic, front-footed campaign was key. A savvy use of social media, by the Labour party and Momentum, mobilised young voters to turn out and snatch seats such as Sheffield Hallam and Canterbury.
But what is often overlooked – and constitutes the beating heart of the Corbyn project – is the flourishing, vibrant movement of ordinary people who flooded into marginals and had millions of conversations on the doorstep.
At Momentum, this was our focus. On a shoestring budget we mobilised far beyond our 24,000 members. By running a nimble, creative campaign with a youthful staff we connected with those who were new to the Labour party, new to campaigning and often new to politics. We gave people confidence. We lowered the barriers to getting involved. We made canvassing more accessible.
How did we do it? Over the election we ran 50 campaign weekends that mobilised tens of thousands of activists to knock on doors in key marginal seats. Our Bernie Sanders organisers trained thousands of activists across the country in how to have authentic, empathetic conversations that went beyond data collection.
My Nearest Marginal, our online marginals map that made it easy to find your closest Labour battleground, became a key tool in directing activists to strategic constituencies and was used by more than 100,000 people across the party. On election day, nearly 10,000 Momentum activists pledged to take the day off work and knocked on more than 1.2m doors to make sure Labour voters cast their ballot.
The story of this election is that ordinary people have redrawn the electoral map. Seats such as Battersea and Sheffield Hallam, deemed by regional Labour parties as unwinnable, were won by members going out on the doors anyway because they believed they could win. Victories in Leeds North West, Crewe & Nantwich, Croydon Central, Derby North, Brighton Kemptown and many more can be attributed to this same effect. Ordinary people flooding the doorstep talking about policies that resonate.
Academics have long known the importance of ground game. But in an era where many mistrust the media, face-to-face conversations that speak to the issues people care about only become more crucial. And on election day, when making sure Labour supporters actually turnout to vote, hundreds of people pounding the pavement can (and did) make all the difference.