Once again Exeter Labour has shown how to win elections.
We gained two seats, Heavitree and Polsloe, from the Tories and one, Alphington, from the Liberal Democrats.
In Polsloe, Labour beat the veteran and widely respected leader of the Tory group on the council.
Labour now holds 27 of the 40 seats, an all time record. Our majority is higher than at the height of Labour’s national popularity in the early years of Tony Blair’s leadership.
Exeter returned a Tory Member of Parliament before 1997 and is the sort of Southern English seat outside London we must win more of to win next year’s election.
We also have our first Exeter University undergraduates elected councillors – which is great in a city where the university plays such an important role – and our first ethnic minority councillor.
So, what’s the secret of Labour’s consistent success in Exeter over the years?
Three things: organisation, reputation and communication.
Organisation: We don’t just work at election time, but Labour volunteers and councillors are out all year round listening to people, doing their casework and identifying our support.
Reputation: Labour has run Exeter very well. We have one of the lowest council taxes in England, well-run services and a strong relationship with business, which has attracted inward investment and growth.
Communication: We do our own local communication focussing on Exeter’s local success and Labour’s appealing national policies. Our messaging is centrist, positive and forward looking. People don’t want political slogans but a credible, positive alternative to this Government.
A last word on UKIP. Exeter is no different from many places where UKIP has done well in these elections. The reason they haven’t here is because we work hard in those wards where they might otherwise make inroads. The consequence is they hurt the Tories much more than us.
Thank you so much to all the wonderful Labour volunteers, candidates and councillors in Exeter for all your hard work and to the people of Exeter for putting their trust in us again.
If any Labour colleagues from the rest of the country would like to come and learn how it’s done, you’d be most welcome.