In May last year, Wells CLP had the audacity to launch a May Day Rally in ‘the heart of the Tory Beast’. This unusual move attracted different Trades Unions and other Labour branches into the city which has flitted between Conservative and Liberal Democrat in recent years.
Fast forward to a freezing cold January Saturday morning in 2019, as twenty-four Labour activists turned up to Wells, to learn how to persuade people to change their minds on the blue-yellow usual choice and change to red. They learned to convince people to vote for Labour as part of ongoing campaigning but most importantly in preparation for this May’s local elections. In a city, which ex-MP Tessa Munt seems to consider her personal fiefdom, there are signs that the winds are changin.
In the Heart of the Lib Dem Beast
A team of Bridgwater members joined up with Wells members to enthuse and inspire each other to action, learning important campaigning skills, in particular how to persuade through various techniques. Not only that, after a shared lunch, they took the Labour message out to the ‘Lib Dem stronghold’ of Wells City to put the skills into practice.
The response on the doorstep was very positive. The sight of a bunch of red rosette-wearing activists descending on a street got cheers of support from drivers and residents even came out of houses to find out what was going on!
Sedgemoor Labour Campaign Coordinator, Gary Tucker, who ran the training said, “This was the culmination of a year-long tour of training across Somerset. It was so heartening to see the numbers of people taking part, taking onboard new ideas and then putting them into practice straight away. When the Bridgwater members left for home, I was delighted to see that Wells members wanted to keep going! I think that the Tories and Lib Dems have lost support in Somerset and they have much to fear from a newly-inspired Somerset Labour party. I can’t wait to begin the election campaign now that most constituencies in Somerset have now had the training and are very active.”
Elections Next May
This is all good timing as both Sedgemoor and Mendip District Councils are up for grabs this May and both Bridgwater and Wells constituencies overlap the Sedgemoor area. The event gave the chance for members from both constituencies to get to know each other ahead of the upcoming campaign.
Wells member Ant Butler had this to say about the training, “I can’t remember when I might have spent 4 more productive hours. Walking the constituency to put the theory into practice was the perfect conclusion to the morning’s seminar. Brilliant to meet up with Bridgwater comrades and to test our own thinking in the discussion sessions by tossing about the hard-to-counter ‘myths’ was very helpful. Notable quote: ‘We always voted Conservative but now I’m not so sure’ – neither remarkable nor surprising but to hear such free thinking from a Wells resident was as good a start to 2019’s campaign as I could have dreamed of…”
Den Carter added “Out canvassing, one householder said he had no idea Labour were so strong here when he saw us all, and said he would vote for us! And we picked up a new member…..and the training was really well attended – 24 people interested in Persuasion Training on a freezing cold Saturday in January is pretty impressive! Useful to have the myth busting information to hand – that is something we will address at branch level so that people can easily fend off those faux arguments, and all the advice about brevity and impact helped move us fairly quickly along the doorsteps – that was brilliant! We will be much more efficient and will cover more ground in the light of this training……That photo of all of us will put the wind up Tessa because I think her support has collapsed and I’d be surprised if she could muster so many people for canvassing – and she can’t cover the whole constituency on her own! “
Chair of the North West Somerset Branch (made up of Highbridge and Burnham and Cheddar) Julia Timothy added,“Everyone who came out canvassing after the training really enjoyed it!”
One thing for sure is that if today’s activists are anything to go by, Labour has much to gain and the Tories/ Lib Dems have much to lose.
Gary Tucker concluded by saying, “Although the persuasive training has now come to an end, there is still a chance for anyone new to the party, existing members who want to get involved or experienced members to join in with the campaign which will be our most ambitious to date. Get involved no matter what level- canvassing, delivering leaflets, working behind the scenes, we have a role for everyone who cares and is willing to help our country change path towards a much brighter future. Get in touch and we will be glad to have you as part of the team.”