As we near another Third Place First conference I thought that it would be a good time to reflect on where the relaunched Third Place First campaign has taken us in my constituency of Guildford.When I wrote for Progress on this subject a couple of years ago we were ‘basking in the glory’ of electing two councillors to Guildford Borough Council in wards where we had moved from third place to first. Since then our two councillors have been working hard, battling against a large Tory majority and a weak Liberal Democrat opposition. Labour is definitely punching above its weight on the council.
We had hoped that our success in the Borough elections of 2011 would be a springboard to success in the County Council elections of 2013. Sadly this wasn’t the case despite having some excellent candidates and running a very good campaign. UKIP made a strong showing, in seats where the Liberal Democrats were incumbents they held on and the Tories even gained a seat, somewhat against the national trend – but this is Surrey!Undaunted we have carried on the fight, we have a local campaign plan for this years’ European Elections and we aim to get at least two MEPs elected to represent the South East Region. In the European Elections in 2009 we came fourth in the region so it’s more of a case of ‘Fourth Place First’ for these elections.
As we don’t have local elections in Guildford this year we have twinned with our neighbours in Rushmoor (Aldershot and Farnborough in Hampshire). We will be helping them in their efforts to increase their Labour group of 12, in seats where we need to go from Third Place to First.A significant boost to our campaigning in Guildford has been the selection of our excellent PPC – Richard Wilson. We selected him in November and Richard has ‘hit the ground running’, inspiring regular activists to do more and encouraging new members to get involved.
We are still fortunate enough to have the financial resources to employ campaign organisers, two politics students who study at our local university. They are proving to be a great support to our PPC and a very wise investment.So, looking ahead, we’ve got a lot of work to do. We recognise that it is not only the Tories that we have to defeat, in many seats we have to ‘climb over’ the Liberal Democrats first and also deal with the UKIP and Green threats too. In many seats we’re aiming to go from Third Place to First but in others we need to go from Fourth Place to First.
We’re up for the challenge because the prize is worth winning. More MEPs and councillors in 2014 and a Labour government and even more councillors in 2015 and – who knows – we might even turn Surrey red one day!
Michael Hassell is a South East regional representative on the National Policy Forum and a member of Guildford CLP.