By Powerscourt on 29/06/2023
Navigating the General Election
As we approach General Election season, Mark Leftly, head of Public Affairs at Powerscourt, shares his advice on how businesses can influence the policies of the main political parties.
Plenty of companies have been caught out by the reversal of fortunes of the two main parties in recent times. Having spent years talking to the movers and shakers in the ruling Conservative party, Labour had been left relatively neglected.
As our clients turn their attention to the general election, expected around May or October next year, comms teams are asking how they can help Labour to develop policies for the party’s general election manifesto.
While Labour’s poll lead – at 21% according to Omnisis – remains daunting, politics has been incredibly chaotic these last few years and it is not that long ago that Boris Johnson was taking seats from Labour heartlands. A victory for Sir Keir Starmer is not guaranteed. That’s why we also provide a little insight into the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties’ processes.
Recent news stories have been written as though Labour’s manifesto is complete. But there’s still time to help the party develop policy and leader Sir Keir is openly keen for business to get involved.
The Labour Policy Forum has completed a consultation of members, unions and interested groups. The ideas presented to the forum have been, in effect, longlisted as a policy programme. This will be whittled down in time for the party’s annual conference in October.
The forum’s programme will form the bulk of what is expected to be a slimmed down manifesto. Frontbenchers will, however, fight for compelling new policy ideas to be included. There will also be commitments made in speeches and press conferences ahead of and during the election campaign. What is key to convincing frontbenchers about the importance of your policies is to make sure they don’t come attached with large price tags.
The Tories run a centralised process and knowing how to deal with the leader’s inner circle is crucial. Rishi Sunak is, however, wounded by dreadful local election results and needs to placate backbenchers who are nervous about losing their seats.
The 1922 Committee representing those non-ministerial MPs is, therefore, expected to be more widely consulted about the manifesto than in recent elections. The committee has MPs who look after different policy areas, and they will soon canvass the views of their fellow backbenchers. Convincing the 1922 of the value of your policies will be important as they liaise with Number 10 about the manifesto in the coming months.
The third biggest UK-wide party was outmanoeuvred by the Conservatives during coalition government negotiations in 2010. Oliver Letwin, who led those talks for the Tories, had a hunch his party would need the Lib Dems to form a government and carefully considered their annual conference policy commitments months before the election. He found areas of overlap that supported the Conservative agenda, while ceding little real ground to an ill-prepared party that hadn’t been close to power in living memory.
Burned by coalition, the Lib Dems have ruled out a deal with the Conservatives in the event of a hung parliament. But they are likely to support a Labour government, even if only on a vote-by-vote basis. Making sure Labour policies that support your industry are also included in the Lib Dem manifesto would mean there are easy agreements for their negotiating teams to broker.
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