If elections were won and lost based on the quality of the pitch a candidate made to the electorate, then Will Straw, a Labour candidate in Lancashire, would probably be home and dry by now.
Will, son of former foreign secretary Jack (probably the most famous person* in my contacts book thanks to a spell at the Lancashire Telegraph), is standing in the Rossendale and Darwen constituency, which is where I live.
It’s a swing seat of sorts. In previous general elections, it was flagged up as the one the Tories needed to win to get into Number 10. They won it off Labour in 2010, but still didn’t make it into Number 10. And as a result, it’s had less attention this time – until this week.
Thanks to Lord Ashcroft and his independent polling, Rossendale and Darwen appears to be one of the closest to call seats going:
Clearly Will’s presence for the last 18 months is doing something – he’s closed a 2010 gap from 10% to nothing, largely at the expense of the Lib Dems.
Will he win? I have no idea – but he’s certainly trying harder than the local Labour Party on the council, who (in my ward at least) have failed to deliver any sort of presence on the ground for the last three elections).
But what makes Will stand out for me is this: his manifesto. Not just one manifesto, but two – one for Darwen, a small mill town which sits in the shadow of Blackburn in a different borough to a large part of Rossendale, a largely rural collection of towns which, in parts, look far more towards Manchester than they do into Lancashire.
In my experience, politicians tend to deliver top-line messages very well. They’ll do this, they’ll do that. But rarely do their share their workings out in such detail as Will has done here.
Elections might be won and lost on national issues, but putting them in local context is something many politicians fails to do other than in the ‘insert name of town here and smile’ sort of way.
The manifesto, running to almost 40 pages, draws on ONS data to show how issues are affecting Rossendale, such as how pay has dropped far more dramatically in the constituency than it has nationally. It reflects on what he has heard on the doorstep and puts it into context. It doesn’t constantly wave an angry fist at other parties, but does highlight where things aren’t working, and produces evidence to back that up.