Can things only get better for Labour?

If polling can be believed, Labour has already won the election. But that doesn’t tell the real story. The challenge the Party faces is huge.

For victory to be secured and Starmer to be able to deliver on his ambition of a decade of national renewal, the Party knows it has a lot to do in the next five weeks.

Here are three of the most significant challenges facing Starmer, and what they mean for business.

Demonstrate leadership and vision

Although more favourable to Starmer, polling has been less than convincing on his ability to lead. He must demonstrate what he will actually do, not just that he won’t be Rishi Sunak.

This starts with explaining how the Party will tackle the issues that matter most to voters. And that means answering a long and growing list of questions. When will the cost-of-living crisis end? Can Labour be trusted to run the economy? Will hospital waiting lists go down? And crucially, there is the killer question that accompanies each of these – when?

But beyond these critical issues, a campaign based on a message of change must demonstrate what that change will look like. To do this, Starmer must show that he is a leader with purpose and present a vision for the UK which convinces the country of his ability to navigate through the domestic and global challenges on the horizon. And that has to translate beyond the high-level ambition of his five missions, into a language and action that voters can relate to. We have had some insights into this during his campaign visits in recent days but there is more to be done.

Regain traditional heartlands and reach beyond

Kicking off the campaign in Gillingham in the heart of Kent, an almost entirely Conservative county, was a bold signal of Starmer’s ambition to appeal to Conservative voters and persuade them that the change he’s promising will help them. It was a very clear case of Starmer parking his tanks on the Conservatives’ lawn, demonstrating that his party is a broad church reaching beyond its traditional confines.

And alongside appealing to the Conservative voters of middle England, persuading voters in areas of the country which have turned their back on the Party in recent years will be critical. Traditionally a Labour heartland, Scotland switched its allegiance to the SNP in 2015, leaving Labour with only one MP for most of the period since then. Similarly, voters in the red wall seats need to believe that Labour really understands the issues that matter to them, will make the changes needed, and do it quickly.

Convincing these voters that there is good reason to switch back will be key, and not a given in areas which have felt alienated by the Party, or in the case of the red wall, dazzled by Boris Johnson. So, it was unsurprising to see Starmer head to Glasgow on day two of the campaign.  He and his team will visit these areas repeatedly in the weeks ahead.

Look beyond the election

If Starmer does get the keys to No 10 on the 5th July, there will be little opportunity to savour the victory. He will inherit a long list of problems.

Beyond the obvious issues of an economy struggling to recover, a cost-of-living crisis and public services in turmoil, there are beartraps waiting for a new government, including the potential collapse of Thames Water and financial problems across local government. All of which is being considered by Starmer’s team alongside the campaign to ensure that, if successful, he is a man with a plan on day one.

And if he is to secure his decade of national renewal, Starmer will need a convincing victory to ensure that he can achieve enough in his first term, to secure a second. Without a workable majority, passing legislation will be difficult and time consuming.  You only have to look to Theresa May’s Brexit deal to see how this played out; painful negotiations and concessions, and MPs in constant conflict with No 10.  So, whilst victory in any form is the goal, Starmer and his team will be ambitious for the scale of that victory.

And what does all of this mean for business?

Starmer’s team has been clear that business will play a pivotal role in supporting policy development if Labour forms the next government. What that looks like is not yet clear, but one thing is – business will continue to have the opportunity to share its expertise.

This means that you need to be ready to go on day one of a new government, to form relationships with the people in the roles that will determine your operating environment and be ready to share how your business can help the Party solve the big policy challenges or help them to navigate some of the issues that invariably await.

And it’s important to remember they won’t have thought of everything, or anticipated every potential issue or opportunity; so, don’t assume any knowledge or action on their part.

In the meantime, for the period of the campaign, tracking what the Party is saying and considering how that might impact on your business will be critical.

If you would like to have a conversation about what this period means for your business, please contact [email protected]