Louise Baldock was selected as the Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Stockton South in July 2013. Over a year later, I talk to Louise about how she has built the organisation required for her campaign, and the steps forward to May 2015.
“Let’s start door-knocking tomorrow” Louise said when she won the nomination to be the Labour candidate. Joined by eight fellow campaigners the next day, her campaign to unseat the current Conservative MP James Wharton began.
Given her twenty-two years experience of doorstep campaigning, face to face interaction with voters is something Louise clearly values. The result of personal conversations with voters is pivotal for exposure and building up local connections. In a marginal seat such as Stockton South, where the majority was only 332 in the 2010 General Election, meeting local voters will be a decisive factor in potentially switching the seat back under the Labour column.
During the first three months of her campaign, Louise went door-knocking every day. Standing against an incumbent MP creates challenges of name recognition, but Louise is confident that the personal interactions with voters will help her campaign. The process of meeting every voter can be slow; during a two hour session, Louise and her team will knock on about 200 doors. Considering that usually half of those are in, and that on average 50,000 votes are cast in the constituency at a General Election, it will take a long time to meet all the voters. However, noting that there are swathes of solid Conservative and Labour voters, door to door campaigning will be pivotal for identifying and talking to those still undecided.
For those undecided voters are the ones who will determine the outcome of the election in Stockton South, and as the seat is a key marginal, will disproportionately influence the colour of the Government after the election. The issues that these voters raise when meeting Louise are a blend of local and national. “Lots of people are hard up and struggling.” Louise says, and many voters want to talk about their personal concerns. Immigration, an issue which the voters in Abingdon reported as the most important in a recent 50for15 survey, is mentioned less frequently on the doors of Stockton South a couple of months after the European Union elections.
Louise provides an explanation of whether voters will be more likely to raise local or national issues when she asks them about their concerns: “When door knocking and you ask people what issues they are concerned about, you can see their eyes looking over your shoulder, passing up and down the street, and then they will talk about a very local issue in the street they can see from the step. When you telephone, and they are perhaps sitting in front of the television, they will respond with national issues.”
Building a campaign is not only about face to face interaction because there are plenty of opportunities to organise online. Twitter provides a platform for national presence and interaction with activists across the country. Louise uses her website (http://www.louise-baldock4stocktonsouth.org.uk/) to provide more information about her, and encourage local residents to email her.
Her campaign is certainly well organised, but will be put the test in the months to come. Given the importance of Stockton South with its extremely close margin, the seat is definitely one which Labour needs to win to get back into Government. No pressure then (!) – but Louise is happy to take on the challenge.