The UK is now in full election mode. As we close out week one, we have 34 days to go before the general election. Over the next five weeks and beyond, the Political + Public Affairs team will be navigating the variable general election waters, including a Friday lunchtime reflection on the week.
In the first salvos, the main parties have drawn lines over the economy, planned public spending, climate change and, of course, Brexit. The Conservatives and Labour have had early mishaps. For the Tories, the resignation of a cabinet minister, a lacklustre – or rather none existent – online campaign, and for Labour the decision of deputy leader, Tom Watson, to quit his post and not stand for parliament – hardly endorsement of a future Labour government. Watson was a last standard-bearer for the remaining centrist members of the parliamentary party and critic of the leadership’s handling of anti-Semitism.
In an election two things matter: tactics and strategy. Some of this can be pre-planned; much however will depend on how the party tacticians navigate events. What is also important early in the campaign is striking intelligible and sellable messages, or: what’s the pitch? For Labour it’s time for real change, the Conservative party unleash Britain’s potential and of course getting Brexit done and the Liberal Democrats plan for Britain’s future. In an election where the Tory and Labour party leaders are loved or loathed, the Lib Dems have centred a campaign around their new leader Jo Swinson and the party’s policy to remain in the EU.
So where are the voters? Of their major concerns, Brexit and health rank highest, also important are issues like crime and security, the economy and immigration. Boris Johnson is ending the week on domestic policy with visits to schools and a hospital. It is worth remembering that Europe (now Brexit) only rose up the ranks of top 10 voter concern in 2010 because it featured in the political debate. In other words voters felt it a concern because of its prominence in political debate, not necessary because they felt it, personally. Today Brexit is high up the list of concerns but voters are also fatigued. The Brexit Party continues to poses a threat, mostly to the Conservatives, there are many more Tory leave voters in the country who are determined to exit the European Union.
As we have reflected in past blogs, this election will be fought seat-by-seat and over issues rather than parties. We see this in the move late this week by the Liberal Democrats, Greens and Plaid Cymru to announce electoral pacts in England and Wales clears the way for a single pro-Remain candidate in 60 seats.
We are set for a busy month ahead, and whatever the outcome of the general election, our team is ready to cut through the politics, to navigate uncertainty and realise the opportunities in the new parliament and future government.