As the Tories set expectations low for Thursday’s local elections, Labour is in campaign mode. The party has released its third and final party political broadcast ahead of this week’s votes. The theme of the short film is investment vs austerity attempting to lay out the reasoning behind the Labour slogan ‘for the many not the few’. In it, a host offers five members of the public money back that they lost as a result of Tory austerity. Meanwhile, a billionaire is given a £20,000 tax cut. The film goes on to suggest that only the ‘ordinary’ people put the money back in the community – while the billionaire barely notices it and moves it abroad.
The message behind the smooth broadcast is simple and typical of Labour – it reinforces the Jeremy Corbyn view that society is unequal and that those at the top don’t do their bit to share their wealth. But despite being on brand, it does reveal some of the thinking going on behind the scenes of how Labour plan to make gains in elections away from the issue of Brexit.
With the Tories expected to be punished for failing to deliver Brexit both in the local elections and the European elections, Labour also find the issue at times unhelpful on the doorstep. So far Jeremy Corbyn has managed a Brexit fudge that roughly keeps the party’s coalition of voters together. However, local Labour campaigners report voter apathy on the doors with people fed up, disillusioned and worn down by the Brexit process. That is a problem for the party as they tend to benefit from high turnout – low turnout can disproportionately affect Labour. The current political turmoil could hurt Labour by making it harder to get people out to the ballot box. The prediction that the Tories are on course to lose 800/1000 seats is met with scepticism by many in Labour who see it as serious expectation management.
In order to surmount these obstacles, the view is that there are still some issues that do cut through on the doorstep. These issues are those that have made up the three latest party political broadcasts: austerity isn’t over, police cuts have led crime to rise and austerity – rather than local investment – is preventing ordinary people from rebuilding their community. These are all claims that could be countered by the Tories – the problem is the Conservatives are so consumed in the current Brexit paralysis that they have little to say in response.