The General Election and positioning your business as a partner to the next government

Finally, after months of speculation, the Prime Minister has called an election and the UK will go to the polls on Thursday 4th July.

There are two clear tasks for businesses now.

Firstly, close analysis of the campaign and identification of your opportunities to align your policy ideas and asks with the main parties’ platforms. In Brands2Life Public Affairs’ ‘Engaging the Labour Party’ guide, we provide a proven methodology for doing just that with Labour.

But there is a second job for businesses which, while it may initially appear less obvious, will prove just as critical.

Businesses need to identify the practical constraints that the winning party will face, and position themselves as partners for overcoming them.

Having been in power for over 14 years, the Conservative Party already has the apparatus and experience in place for an easy transition should they win the election.

But should the polls prove correct, and Labour form the next government, they face significant practical challenges which they will swiftly need to address.

In recent conversations with senior members of Keir Starmer’s team, three challenges in particular have been highlighted:

  1. The shift from policy vision to practical delivery
  2. Scaling up from an opposition SME to a large governing organisation
  3. Maintaining a focus on business during policy development

With careful planning and analysis, your business can help the Party tackle all of them.

The shift from policy vision to practical delivery

Labour has had over a decade of practice in developing policy and regulatory positions that there was little chance of them ever having to implement. That has changed in the last two years, since polling began to indicate a genuine prospect of the Party entering government.

A shift now needs to take place. Labour politicians, advisors and party officials will have to consider not just what to pledge to the British public, but how they will actually implement those plans.

Critical to this process will be the first three months of a potential Labour government. Expectations will be sky high and there will be intense pressure on the Party to begin delivering in areas that are genuinely front of mind for the public.

Businesses need to present the Party with actionable policy ideas that hold the potential for an immediate, tangible impact. If you can help the Party make that transition, from ideas to practical implementation, you will find an open door to Labour.

Scaling up from an opposition SME to a large governing organisation

Despite occupying a critical role in the UK’s democratic system, Labour in opposition is more akin to an SME than a large corporation. With just a few hundred staff (and that is after considerable recent recruitment ahead of the election), bandwidth to engage with stakeholders, develop policy approaches, and win over the public has been limited.

If the Party wins power, it will face an even greater challenge – upsizing from ‘SME’ to large, governing ‘corporation’, almost overnight. And while the Party will have the civil service supporting it as part of that process, navigating that relationship will itself add complexities and challenges.

The upsizing will also require significant recruitment at speed – special advisors, policy experts, chairs and members of boards and taskforces.

But therein lies an opportunity for business.

Are there experts or industry leaders that you can recommend to the Party for advisory roles, or positions on panels and boards?

By helping the Party navigate a tricky scale up process, you can position yourself as a valuable source of support, and potentially place your senior leaders in positions of influence.

Maintaining a focus on business during policy development

The final practical challenge Labour will face if it enters government, is maintaining the focus on business as it turns policy into delivery.

The last two years have seen a very successful drive by the Party to re-establish its relationship and trust with industry. Consistent engagement with businesses has been central to this, but maintaining that engagement will become harder in power.

Policy development cycles will speed up dramatically. No longer will the Party have the luxury of months to develop a policy platform; now it will need to respond to external events and economic developments in a matter of hours, and may well not have the time to properly consult the business community.

The Party needs practical approaches and support to ensure that the needs of business are not an afterthought, but rather baked into policy formation.

Businesses that can act as the conduit of views, ideas and insights will be in prime position to support and influence the Party. While trade associations will be important, Labour has made clear that it also wants to hear directly from companies.

Can you act as that convenor for your sector, through roundtables or seminars? Provide Labour with a route to hearing from business, and your ideas will find welcoming ears.

Investment in Labour now for long term traction

The polls could yet hold a surprise, and with six weeks of campaigning ahead of us, the Conservatives will be hopeful of turning around their current position.

But if predictions prove correct, businesses will do well to invest in their relationship with Labour now. Keir Starmer has talked about a ‘decade of renewal’, which would necessitate at least two election victories. Supporting the Party through their practical challenges at the start of that potential decade, would be a worthwhile investment indeed.

If you would like an informal conversation about how best to approach engagement with Labour or other parties in the run up to the election, and beyond, please email us on [email protected]