Alex Hilton: Labour is wrong to scrap the grid

This weekend, Labour's election supremo Douglas Alexander insisted there would be no rigid 'grid' of events such as we have seen in previous elections.

Alex Hilton
Alex Hilton

He cited difficulties with hecklers and specifically the John Prescott punch in 2001 as his reason for abandoning the grid. He seems to have forgotten that Labour won a stonking great majority in 2001.

The purpose of the grid is to take the public on a journey. You make an assessment of where people stand on the issues at the beginning of the campaign and you walk them through the past achievements, the future aspirations and the opposition threat. This is a journey that has to be planned ahead and that forms the basis of the short campaign strategy.

Dumping the grid now would be to throw strategy out of the window in favour of short-term tactics. So presumably, if a minister gets heckled on immigration, the Alexander doctrine would be to assess the impact and consider organising the next day's activities to close down the issue.

This is about the most defeatist position a party can have in an election and an invitation for the opposition to set the agenda. Once the plan for the campaign is shredded, then every diversion leads to an unknown destination and every good idea has an unplanned outcome. The grid doesn't prevent good ideas being acted upon, nor does it prevent rebuttal activities from taking place. The grid simply reminds everyone in what direction the ship is pointing and where the campaign is supposed to be in weeks one, two, three and four.

Alexander and his fellow election co-ordinator, deputy leader Harriet Harman, showed in the spring Euro elections that they were capable of limitless failure - Labour achieved third place nationally behind UKIP.

Yet it emerges now that Harman is conducting opinion polls among party members on her abilities - looking suspiciously like early preparations for a leadership bid. Labour has no hope while the key players are focused on a post-election - or even pre-election - leadership tussle, when they should be looking outwards and responding to the voters' expectations.

- Alex Hilton is a Labour parliamentary candidate and founder of political blogs Labourhome and Recess Monkey.

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