Where to Drop the Bombs: The Constituency Battle

  • Philip Cowley
  • Dennis Kavanagh


There have been significant changes in local campaigning in recent years. The parties have had to adapt to a general long-term decline in members — the Green and SNP surges notwithstanding — as well as the opportunities offered by technology and social media.1 For Labour and the Liberal Democrats especially, the local or ground war is important because the preponderance of press support for the Conservatives places them at a disadvantage in the mass-media or air war. In communicating with voters, parties have learnt from commercial marketing tools and have become eager students of the latest developments in US elections; in 2015 the Conservatives and Labour imported key staff who had worked on the Obama 2012 presidential campaign. They also learn from each other. The Conservatives were impressed at how Labour held on to so many marginal seats which they would have lost on a uniform swing in 2010 by exploiting their superior rates of activity and voter contact; Labour organisers had boasted that they had gained a 1992 share of seats for a 1983 share of votes. Alicia Kennedy, Labour’s then campaign director, had claimed ‘where we work, we win’, and it was a lesson the Conservatives had taken to heart.


Direct Mail Conservative Party Swing Voter Local Party Safe Seat 
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  1. 8.
    T. Smith, ‘Are You Sitting Comfortably? Estimating Incumbency Advantage in the UK: 1983–2010 — A Research Note’, Electoral Studies, 32(1) (2013): 167–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Editor(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip Cowley
    • 1
  • Dennis Kavanagh
    • 2
  1. 1.Queen Mary University of LondonUK
  2. 2.University of LiverpoolUK

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