In Dudley we used a localised campaign. Under a Dudley-wide manifesto wards also campaigned on hyper-local issues and could focus to the specific challenges facing their communities. We had 10 target seats, and were defending 17 of the 24 seats being contested following the historic results of 2012.
In our manifesto we pledged to maintain the lowest council tax in the West Midlands while protecting the most vulnerable. We promised to continue running a community-led council, where we have a significant amount of input from voluntary and community groups.
We heard a mixture of local and national concerns on the doorstep, though by and large local issues were subsumed by the state of the party nationally. We tried to focus locally but this often got overtaken by the state of the national party. People were fed up of the internal division. To fight the Conservatives we must stop fighting ourselves – and we had this said to us on the doorstep.
We mainly used local messages, but supplemented these with national ones – especially on the doorstep, talking about tax avoidance and disarray in the Conservative Party.
For the first time we took on two short term contracts for campaigners in addition to the support we had from the regional party because Dudley was a targeted council.
We’ve never had such a united campaign before. We hoped to be the largest party but knew realistically that we weren’t going to maintain overall control. We defended seats from a historic gain in 2012 in which we won 17 of the 24 seats targeted. In 2015 we won 11 out of 24 seats, so the 14 won this year marks a significant gain.
We lost three seats by 3, 13 and 20 votes – I’m absolutely sure if we had a united national party we would have won these seats. It was an issue on the doorstep that, whilst not significant, proved significant when the results were announced.
We are very confident that with the right campaigning we will regain overall control in 2018.