Ed Miliband will on Thursday put Labour on a “war footing” in a bid to secure outright victory at the general election, with the Labour leader and his newly installed election team briefing party staff at an all-day strategy session.
Labour is anxious to avoid any impression that it is making contingency plans for another hung parliament, even though it emerged after the 2010 election that the Conservatives and Lib Dems were much better prepared for such an outcome than Labour.
Although the latest opinion polls point to a Labour overall majority, some of its MPs believe privately that Labour’s best hope is to be the largest party in a hung parliament.
But Thursday’s strategy session, “Changing to win: preparing for 2015,” will be told that Labour is aiming to win 106 target seats and secure more than 40 per cent of the vote.
Officials believe that Mr Miliband’s campaign on the “cost of living crisis” dovetails with the election plan. Figures show that the English regions where the fall in average hourly earnings is highest –the South West, East Midlands and West Midlands—are where the Tories have the highest number of marginal seats.
“Campaigning on the cost of living is about seeking a national majority which includes Tory switchers,” said a Labour source.
Labour staff will be addressed by Mr Miliband; Douglas Alexander, the shadow Foreign Secretary in charge of election strategy; Michael Dugher, the shadow Cabinet member responsible for communications; Spencer Livermore, a former Gordon Brown aide who returned last week from the private sector to oversee the election “war room” at party HQ; Harriet Harman, the deputy leader; Gloria de Piero, the party’s spokeswoman on equality issues and Iain McNichol, the general secretary. The guest speaker will be Jackie Brock-Doyle, who was communications director for the London 2012 Olympics.
Mr Dugher argues that the “only coalition” Labour should seek is one built by winning the votes of former Labour supporters; people who have not voted before; first-time voters; floating voters and those who backed the Tories or Lib Dems in 2010. He believes that Labour must avoid being drawn into a debate on which parts of its 2015 manifesto would be non-negotiable in any coalition talks. The Lib Dems have urged the other parties to set out such “red lines”.
Mr Dugher told the Labour modernisers’ magazine Progress that preparing for a coalition would be “complete defeatism” and said there is no evidence that Britain is now in “an era of coalition government.”
He said: “The biggest blow to coalition government has happened in the last three and a half years once people have seen what coalition government is like: that horse-trading behind closed doors and the routine breaking of promises…..I think people want to see strong and clear government that they can hold to account.”
Mr Dugher insisted that Labour had changed and learnt lessons since losing power. A former spin doctor to Mr Brown, he said of his former boss: “Our candidate for prime minister in 2010 referred to a working class woman from the north of England [Gillian Duffy] as bigoted because she raised issues about immigration. Our candidate for prime minister in 2013 makes lots of speeches about immigration and has changed our policy.”