The 33-page document, entitled “Campaigning against Ukip“, was produced by the Labour Party and recently distributed to dozens of MPs in danger of losing votes to UKIP alongside detailed constituency maps pinpointing where possible defectors can be found. The guidance, which was never meant to be made public, shows for the first time the party leadership has accepted UKIP is seriously hurting them in the North and reveals in remarkable detail Labour’s entire election strategy for countering the threat.
They rightly point to UKIP’s success:
“UKIP’s strong performance in the 2014 European Election in areas as diverse as Wales and the South East of England, has shown that it is capable of winning support outside its traditional heartlands in the rural South West and parts of eastern England where their support has previously been concentrated.
With victories in Clacton and Rochester & Strood behind them, as well as a very close second in Heywood & Middleton, it is now clear that UKIP expect to poll strongly in many Labour-held constituencies and key seat targets which we need to win from the Conservatives.
UKIP has shown it can now both put together a strong field operation and draw substantial support with next to no local activity. It is therefore crucial that there is a clear strategy to fight them in the constituencies where our local MPs or the party believe there to be a threat.”
The document focuses on urban issues including immigration and states the view that:
“Writing to electors proactively (i.e.: without evidence the elector is concerned about it) about immigration risks undermining the broad coalition of support we need to return to government…” and would “…inevitably be hitting some people for whom it is unhelpful to raise the salience of immigration as an issue.”
The immigration issue has less importance in a rural area, where over-building on greenfield sites, local transport, and rural job opportunities, are more important. Other Labour tactics are also revealed. Far more seriously than Labour’s coyness when it comes to immigration are the contradictions in the document on UKIP’s policies on the NHS.
However, the UKIP policy document specifically states:
” – UKIP opposes plans to charge patients for visiting their GP
– UKIP will ensure the NHS is free at the point of delivery and time of need for all UK residents
– We will stop further use of PFI in the NHS and encourage local authorities to buy out their PFI contracts early where this is affordable”
We have also seen Labour leaflets which imply that UKIP is to privatise the NHS, and similar misleading or other false assertions. The NHS is viewed by Labour as a major distinction over UKIP, and there is a certain amount of resentment of UKIP for encroaching on what they see as their property. No party owns the NHS, nor does any party have the right to be seen as the automatic and sole spokesman for the NHS.
There is also a section on monitoring local UKIP web and media activity:
“Monitoring local UKIP activity will play a key part in Labour’s attack and rebuttal work against UKIP. Statements by UKIP candidates and councillors and copy on UKIP campaign materials can be used in counter-UKIP campaigning at the local and national level. Therefore, all local parties should collect any UKIP materials distributed in your constituency, and monitor the social media accounts of UKIP candidates and councillors.”
Apart from providing us with ammunition to perplex doorstepping Labour canvassers, the ‘Campaigning against UKIP’ guideline document gives us an insight into how Labour treat the electorate. It advises their supporters that they should be “moving the conversation on” if voters mention immigration as a concern on the doorstep. It is not surprising that they want to avoid it, as Labour were the enthusiastic proponents of mass open doors immigration in their time in office, but since then we have seen that such immigration has raised deep voter concerns in many areas including housing, education, healthcare, welfare, wage levels, security, and jobs.
The other implication from this document, which mentions immigration no less than 34 times, is that they only need to oppose UKIP on this topic. However, UKIP are not a one policy party, but immigration is often the most salient amongst the subjects which people want to discuss, and UKIP are the only party free to do so. Labour are 100% in favour of the EU, where they signed away controls on immigration and many other key areas to the EU. Talking about high levels of immigration leads on to the multiplicity of negative stories about the EU which can also be exploited by UKIP, from the poor financial probity of the EU institutions, to lack of accountability, to the £60million a day UK contributions, to the stifling torrent of unwanted legislation, and to the undemocratic and unelected EU bureaucracies.
Mr Miliband, on Monday 15th, attempted to win back voters from UKIP with a high profile speech in Great Yarmouth, publicly declaring that he will prevent employers who use mainly migrant workers from undercutting wages. This ignores that Labour were responsible for the surfeit of migrants in the first instance. It could hardly have come at a worse time, with the leaked doorstep guideline document privately recommending that Labour in fact disengages from the immigration debate. Still, we now have a very good strategy for Labour cold calling, just mention the i-word, immigration, and see them squirm.
I hope they take note of this article and consider whether they ought to revise their NHS propaganda in regard to UKIP.