Labour candidates told they are campaigning too much in their own seats

<span>Ellie Reeves, the party’s deputy national campaign coordinator, wrote in an email to candidates that there was ‘too much activity in some of our held seats’.</span><span>Photograph: Peter Nicholls/Getty Images</span>
Ellie Reeves, the party’s deputy national campaign coordinator, wrote in an email to candidates that there was ‘too much activity in some of our held seats’.Photograph: Peter Nicholls/Getty Images

Labour election candidates have been told they are doing too much campaigning in their own safe seats and must spend more time in battleground constituencies, causing friction with candidates who are concerned about a backlash from Labour voters.

The instructions from Labour HQ have met opposition from some candidates, especially in London and big cities. A number of those in inner-city constituencies told the Guardian they were uncomfortable about ignoring voters locally, especially over the party’s stance on Gaza.

Others said they were ignoring the missives from HQ because of a need to campaign in new parts of their constituency that they had inherited because of boundary changes.

One senior party figure said candidates had been told at the start of the election campaign that they should focus on tight battleground seats and should not spend time in very safe seats or unwinnable ones.

However, the person said that in the first three weeks of the campaign, the number of target seats had significantly increased as the potential scale of a Labour victory had grown. As a result London candidates were campaigning in areas previously regarded as safe Tory seats, such as Chelsea and Fulham.

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Ellie Reeves, the party’s deputy national campaign coordinator, wrote in an email to candidates that there was “too much activity in some of our held seats”. She wrote: “We are clear, our activity must be focused in our battleground seat areas if we want to win this election. You are key to this and must be out in our twin seats campaigning.”

But several MPs said they were “solely focused” on their constituencies, even in seats with majorities of more than 20,000, but said they were anticipating a significant drop-off in activist activity.

“There’s a way of framing this that isn’t telling us off for speaking to our own voters,” said one. Another candidate said it was often those with high majorities getting the hardest time on the doorstep. “Time for change cuts more ways than one,” they said.

Another activist said: “As an MP you’re wanting to shore up your core vote, and the data we always have is our hero voters, if they’re saying don’t know … you’re gonna be worried and not want to leave so much.”

Activists in east London are being directed as far afield as Rochester and Strood in Kent, Hitchin in Hertfordshire and Kettering in Northamptonshire, and in north-west London are being redirected to Aldershot in Hampshire.

There are some seats that Labour is still directing activists to campaign in. Its campaigning tool on the Labour website is telling activists in Birmingham Ladywood to stay and campaign to hold the seat for the shadow justice secretary, Shabana Mahmood, who is facing a challenge from the Workers party candidate Akhmed Yakoob campaigning on a pro-Palestine platform.

It is also telling those in the neighbouring seat of Birmingham Yardley to stay to campaign for Jess Phillips and for activists in Bristol Central to campaign to hold the seat for Thangam Debbonaire who is under threat from the Greens.

The Conservative campaign has been warning voters they are fighting to prevent Keir Starmer from winning a “supermajority” even bigger than Labour’s 1997 landslide victory

In recent social media advertising, the party is urging potential Reform UK voters not to risk handing Starmer the opportunity to do “anything” he wanted in parliament.

The online advert says the Tories could be reduced to 57 seats in parliament on a 19% vote share, even if Reform picked up no MPs. The defence secretary, Grant Shapps, said the party was “fighting for every single seat in this country”.

Adverts have told voters not to “hand Keir Starmer a blank cheque” – adding that “a vote for Reform or the Liberal Democrats means you’ll have no one holding [Labour] to account on your behalf”.