Heartlands, 35 per cent, core vote … most people in the Labour party know where to find many of our voters. And yet when we have won the defining elections of the past 70 years, in 1945, 1964, and in 1997 we have won with Labour votes and Labour members of parliament in seats like Hastings.
Communities of the coast and the countryside helped deliver a significant majority on each of those occasions, providing the platform for Labour to govern on our terms.
We will need them again if we are going to form a majority government in 2015. Within the party’s 106 target seats more than 21, or one in five of these constituencies has a sizeable coastal or country element to the seat; and that is without considering those seats such as South Swindon or Southampton Itchen where communities have close connections to their coast or country hinterland.
So even if you are happy to put aside the rural history of the Labour movement and the Tolpuddle Martyrs, there is an electoral imperative to hearing, reflecting and representing Labour on the coast and in the country.
Labour Coast and Country is one part of addressing that electoral imperative.
It is important to acknowledge and build on the work of others, including those who have interrogated Labour’s so called ‘southern discomfort’ or worked on the Southern Taskforce, or Third Place First. These have all helped focus on some elements of the challenge of representing non-urban Britain and the organising that is required from members, CLPs and the party centrally.
Labour Coast and Country aims to add continuity and reach. The continuity will come from being a dedicated organisation set up to work within and across the Labour movement – a sort of SERA for non-urban Britain. LCC will support Labour candidates and CLPs across non-urban Britain and campaign on the issues that concern the millions of people who live outside the major cities of Britain. After all Labour is on their side as much as it is those who live in cities.
And it is important to have national reach. While the local political response of people in coastal and community areas might vary from east to west the substance of many of their issues is the same. As a national party Labour needs to understand those issues to have any chance of crafting a political narrative and policy offer that will engage and deliver.
And we can do it. Hastings is just one example where Labour has succeeded, has delivered for that community and is well place to succeed again.
Labour Coast and Country is a growing network of activists from all parts of non-urban Britain, working together to promote ‘one nation’ Labour, to reflect the issues and opportunities of the coast and countryside and to help deliver the Labour representation these communities deserve.
Such Labour representation will deliver a majority Labour government and deliver for them, as well as our heartlands.
Hywel Lloyd is co-founder of Labour Coast and Country
You can find out more about Labour Coast and Country here