Ben Nolan, the Labour Party’s Head of Membership, is having a nervous 2015 general election campaign.
Whereas other Labour figures (or their MailChimp newsletter administrators) have been relentlessly upbeat in their messages – “GUESS where our JAWS are this morning, Samuel, after we saw our latest fundraising totals!” – Nolan seems to be paid to be pessimistic. And creepy.
As a political blogger, I make a point of staying on the mailing lists for all the main political parties. Normally they are completely unrevealing missives, simple straightforward requests for cash. Sometimes they direct you to a website where you are invited to enter your postcode to reveal a bespoke list of that party’s achievements in office or future spending bribes, customised for your local area.
But sometimes they look like the one that Ben Nolan sent today, fired out to “supporters” who he has decided are not trying hard enough to propel Ed Miliband into 10 Downing Street:
I know we’ve asked you — more than a few times — in the last couple of weeks for a donation to support the crucial work of our local organisers and volunteers.
It seems from our records that you aren’t yet among our generous group of online donors.*
I’m sure it’s for a good reason, Samuel, and I’d love to know what it is. Do you have one minute to tell me what’s stopped you donating?
Your feedback will help us to build a stronger and more inclusive campaign in these final days.
Thanks so much for taking the time.
Head of Membership, Labour Party
Note the undertone of menace in the words “I’m sure it’s for a good reason”.
If you want a glimpse of how Ed Miliband’s unreformed, unrepentant Labour Party will behave in government, look no further than the kind of emails they send to people they supposedly believe to be loyal supporters – angry, paranoid, suspicious and finished off with that touch of preening, baseless moral superiority that has become Labour’s hallmark.
Ben Nolan knows that I haven’t donated any money to the Holy Cause yet. He knows precisely how many times I have been contacted and asked to cough up, the number of times I have clicked through to the website (zero) and the number of seconds I have spent looking at the page before shutting it down. Of course, so do the fundraising managers and analytics people from the other parties. But they don’t take it to the next level and follow up with passive-aggressive and chastening emails, telling off their own supporters for ignoring their daily shakedowns.
The Labour Party sees nothing wrong with this snarling, coercive behaviour when the only thing they control is a laptop computer and a party membership database. What, then, might Ed Miliband’s party – utterly convinced of the righteousness of its own cause and the moral deficiencies of their opponents – be willing to do if they make it back to government, when their hands are at the controls of HM Revenue & Customs, the judicial system, the police and the security services?
As with many Labour Party behaviours, the underlying desire – be it wanting a more equal society or wanting to understand why people on their mailing list are reluctant to donate – isn’t necessarily bad. The fault is all in the way they go about tackling the problem.
When faced with a society in which some highly skilled people earn millions while others grind along living tough lives on the minimum wage, the Labour instinct is not to take action to raise the skills and prospects of the poorest, but rather to vilify and tear down the rich, as though the British economy were a cake of fixed size, with the wealthy taking the “fair share” of the poor. And when faced with a group of people on a mailing list who stubbornly refuse to whip out their credit cards and pledge money to Ed Miliband, Labour – in place of introspection and a broader outreach – resorts to guilt-tripping and bullying to shame those final few pounds into their coffers.
Even Labour’s effort to understand the reasons why their supporters are not donating shows the limit of their imagination. If you click through using the “Yes, I’ll tell you why I haven’t donated” button, you are confronted with this choice:
What if the answer is “none of the above”? What if you happen to be one of the millions of voters who are left cold by technocratic talk about funding and running Britain’s public services, or who happen to think that Britain’s membership of the EU and place in the world happen to be the most vital issues in this election? Yes, many of these people will naturally lean Conservative or UKIP, but not all of them – and it is telling that Labour makes no effort to reach out to these voters.
With less than two weeks to go until polling day, Labour are nowhere near touching distance of achieving a working majority in the House of Commons. Even propped up by the SNP, there is no guarantee that Ed Miliband will become Prime Minister after the votes are cast and the secret negotiations concluded. Given this fact, you might expect one of Britain’s main political parties to be desperately seeking to broaden its appeal, to reach out beyond their core vote in search of new support.
But not Labour. And not Ed Miliband. The man who spent much of the past five years giving forgettable speeches before a backdrop decorated with the words “One Nation” clearly has no intention of governing for the good of the whole country. Neither does Labour show any interest in trying to appeal to people who are not already natural left-wing, Labour voters.
Ed Miliband is so convinced of the moral superiority of his cause that he is not only willing to write off voters who do not already share his worldview, but also to snarl at presumed supporters who he thinks are not doing enough to propel him to victory.
Yes, Ben Nolan – there’s a very good reason why I won’t be giving Labour my money or my vote in the 2015 general election campaign.