Hitting the ground running: The first 100 days
Hitting the ground running: The first 100 days

Posts Tagged ‘General Election’

General Election Briefing

The political landscape is transformed, but a volatile electorate creates pressures for both Labour and the Conservatives.

While the overall result this morning was no surprise, Labour’s landslide victory was just one of several electoral stories – from the return of the Liberal Democrats as Parliament’s third largest party, the rise of Reform, and the success of left-wing independents, to the SNP’s deepening crisis, and a historic low for the Conservative Party.

Keir Starmer will set to work immediately – with key moments over the next 100 days including Cabinet announcements, NATO and European Political Community summits, the King’s Speech and an Autumn Budget.

Our analysis examines some of the key trends from today’s election results, how these will shape Keir Starmer’s government and the new Parliament that reconvenes on Tuesday, and what this means for business.

General Election Briefing


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Is it really the Sun Wot Won It? The impact of media endorsements on elections

Media endorsements used to be treated like gold dust – the be all and end all of election campaigns, one of the moments pundits looked out for. But now, as The Spectator puts it ‘they may not command the power that they once did’. Despite this shift in mentality, as well as the general shift in how media is consumed, it’s still an important moment of any election campaign, and can often tell us a lot about reader sentiment of these publications.  

How did Fleet Street used to vote? 

“It’s the Sun wot won it” has gone down in British political history as proof of how powerful newspapers can be when it comes to swinging elections. The now-infamous Sun front-page headline followed John Major’s slim victory in the 1992 election, after the then Conservative leader was endorsed by the newspaper with the highest readership in the UK. The only time – until now – that The Sun switched over to endorse a Labour leader is in 1997 when they backed Tony Blair. Their infamous phrase reemerged after Blair’s landslide victory. 

In the most recent 2019 general election, Fleet Street particularly favoured the Tories. National papers including The Sun, the Daily Mail, The Times, and the Daily Telegraph all endorsed the Conservatives, being especially keen on their Brexit stance and warning readers of what a Corbyn government would entail. Unsurprisingly, given its left-wing stance, the Guardian stood out by endorsing the Labour Party. The 2019 election had the newspapers backing candidates they were expected to back – there were no surprises from Fleet Street this time around.   

The times are changing 

As we have seen over the past few days, the final week of the campaign is when most papers release their endorsements. Some endorsements were to be expected – the Guardian has supported Labour throughout the campaign, and the Telegraph will always back the Tories. However, there were a few particularly significant and telling swings. 

The first notable endorsements included The Economist and the Financial Times – both of which endorsed Sir Keir Starmer to be the next Prime Minister. This is mostly a reflection of Labour’s shift under the new leadership to the center-left. Both papers have a financial market-led approach and tout the benefits of Britain being seen as a sensible power on the world stage.  

The most remarkable endorsements have been The Sunday Times and The Sun. Despite their right-wing history and editorial stances, they’ve both endorsed Starmer in this election. This is arguably a proof point for Labour’s successful move towards broader appeal – but also a reflection of national frustrations with the Conservatives. The point that The Sunday Times made in its almost reluctant endorsement is that the past few years of Tory rule have been chaotic and counter-productive.  

Who is deciding the election? 

It’s clear from the polling data that Labour doesn’t need the endorsement of major titles like The Times and The Sun to win over the public. However, there is still something to be said for the value of these endorsements. Despite the waning power of the press, Starmer’s team was pushing for the Murdoch-owned News UK endorsement – most notably because of The Sun’s reputation for backing winners. 

On the other hand, some of the more ‘stand out’ or surprising endorsements are demonstrative of the shift in political leanings of these papers’ readership. Right now, the only paper with a Tory majority readership is the Daily Mail. This includes a relatively equal Labour/Conservative split across the Daily Express and Daily Telegraph’s readership – two historically right-wing newspapers.  

Overall, endorsements aren’t the key to winning elections they once were – but they are still important to political parties from a tactical point of view. In light of todays’ front pages, Labour will likely go into tonight’s count with a renewed sense of confidence.  


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A clear cultural shift: how Labour will govern differently

Attention is now focused on what a new Labour government – but beyond policy differences, how will the party govern differently?

Firstly, it is worth remembering that Labour have been out of power for 14 long years. This means that many of the MPs who will be stepping into departments as newly minted Ministers will have little to no ministerial experience. And this is the same for the army of SpAds who will be assuming their new roles.

In terms of understanding quite how different Labour will be, it helps to start by looking at the people – there is every likelihood that Labour will have a huge number of new MPs, some in seats that they very much didn’t expect to win. Labour PPCs are full of those with backgrounds in local government, trades unions and charities. Many are campaigners, some are public affairs professionals, and quite a few may well be elected with relatively shallow majorities in a number of diverse regions. This will leave Keir with a large and new PLP to manage, and though it is a nice problem to have, it can pose it’s own complications with a number of competing priorities and egos.

In terms of the practicalities of government, it is worth reflecting that Keir respects process and institutions, as does Sue Grey his Chief of Staff, (Sir Philip Rutnam, Chair of WA’s Advisory Board and former Permanent Secretary explores how this will shape the structure of Whitehall more broadly here), so unlike previous PMs there will not be the informal sofa government we have seen previously.

There will also be a clear cultural shift – Labour is more than a political party, it’s a movement. And it has an eco-system very different to the Tories with a far stronger and robust internal democracy which includes the trades unions, who are an integral part of the Labour movement.

The new Cabinet themselves will come from a far more diverse range of backgrounds than we have seen under the Tories. Some grew up in poverty and many have working-class backgrounds which they’ve spoken about, especially in framing their political outlook. The times when Eton dominated the Cabinet table will be long gone and the tone and language of the new government will reflect this.

Also important is an appreciation of how laser focused Labour will be on their key missions and policies. Keir has been keen to consistently stress that economic growth is their absolute priority, so companies and organisations will want to look at how they can be part of this narrative.

There will be very little bandwidth for anything other than their stated priorities as well as very limited fiscal headroom. For those looking to engage with Labour, the challenge will be to use smart and nuanced ways in, where policy aligns with priorities, and companies can demonstrate their role in both growing the economy and shaping the fairer society Labour want to see.

There will be opportunities for engagement, whether it is through the various new consultations that will be launched, working groups or roundtables, as well as keeping up to date with the left of centre think tanks who in the last Labour government provided a lot of policy kite flying.

Questions around the structures of government and how Keir will manage No 10, not least the challenge of getting departments working together on cross departmental policy priorities, are not clear yet. What is clear is that HMT will be central to all key decisions as they focus their attention on budget and spending review in addition to making their growth plans a reality.

And this is forgetting what happens to all the best laid plans of governments…events! Unforeseen issues and events impact greatly on a PMs time and energy – whether this is pressing foreign policy issues or domestic crisies that can come out of nowhere, the pace and relentlessness of government is a different level to opposition.

Labour will be hoping that a predicted Tory leadership race, with all the ‘fun’ that entails, will give them some time and space before the media inevitably want a new story and turn their focus onto Labour.

Still, even on its worst days, being in government is a million times better than being in opposition, and after 14 years out in the cold, Labour will not be complacent about finally having the ability to do, rather than just say.

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Debate or Drama? The Role and Relevance of TV Debates in the 2024 Election

Last week saw one of the final significant events before voters head to the polls – the BBC Leader debate. The debate was widely viewed as a critical opportunity for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and one of Keir Starmer’s last public tests, despite a 22-point poll lead heading into the debate. Tensions were clearly high, not helped by reportedly sky-high studio temperatures, leading to an increase in personal attacks and making this the most combative debate of the campaign so far. But do debates really have any impact outside the ‘Westminster bubble?’

The history of the TV debate

The American-style TV debate was brought in in 2010 as a way of making a direct plea to voters – the idea being that this would be a way to engage with those that might normally be swayed by local doorstep politics. Prior to this, television debates were widely blocked by the incumbent party. It was generally the opposition that sought to gain from them. However, this changed under the leadership of Gordon Brown, with a perceived lack of charisma and failing personal popularity driving the Labour Government of the time to greenlight them for the first time so Brown could appeal directly to the electorate.

Since 2010, televised election debates have gone on to become a staple of campaigns, evolving in format according to party support, campaign strategy and leaders’ willingness to participate.  Incumbent PMs have typically sought to fix the structure for their benefit (such as Cameron’s 2015 refusal to take part in the multi-leader debate) or the Liberal Democrats 2010 lobbying for a BBC Question Time format (in which questions are chaired by both an experienced journalist and an audience.)


The varying debate formats we see today are a result of extensive behind-the-scenes wrangling between campaign teams and producers, with negotiations often happening up to the wire. The arrangement used in the 2010 negotiations, when three major broadcasters (BBC, ITV and Sky) moved together to negotiate as a unit, has since shifted considerably – with each broadcaster masterminding their own arrangements with campaign teams. This arguably leaves politicians better able to pick and choose which format best serves their campaign strategy, but doesn’t always leave room for compelling television.

Winners and losers?

It’s inevitable that politicos are always going to want a clear winner and loser from each debate – and it’s not always a straightforward dividing line. This doesn’t, however, stop attempts to find one. Broadly speaking, there are three main ways to test the ‘success’ of a debate – and which messages (if any) are landing:

1. Media surround sound

The most obvious example of which messages are getting cut-through is to look at the front pages, with acres of column inches dedicated to deciding who ‘won’ each debate. Of course, political leanings of papers do sway the headlines – as do the polls hosted on publications’ websites. For instance, the Express poll following the final BBC head-to-head debate found that 69% of readers thought Sunak won, with reports widely suggesting that Sunak had performed better, despite official YouGov polling suggesting a dead heat.

2. Snap polls day after each debate

Post-debate polls have this year generated mixed results, but nevertheless attempt to find ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ from each debate, with polling companies and publications alike publishing snap results the day after each debate.

Source: YouGov – ITV Election Debate snap poll

3. Viewing figures

While viewing figures started off strong, the widespread apathy of the electorate is clear in the dwindling numbers as the campaign has progressed. The Sun’s widely publicised YouTube debate only drew an audience of 7,000 at its peak – a figure which as the Guardian’s John Crace pointed out, is usually matched by non-league football teams.

Similarly, the final head-to-head debate, widely viewed as Sunak’s ‘last chance saloon’ to win hearts and minds had a peak viewing figure of 3m. (In contrast, the ITV coverage of the Georgia vs Portugal Euros game scored a peak audience of 6.4m.)

These low viewing figures are particularly stark when compared with 2019 numbers. This year’s ITV showdown between the PM and Starmer was watched this year by an average of just 4.8m viewers; down from the average audience of 6.7m for the same debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn in 2019.

GE 2024: A different breed of campaign

This has been a campaign like no other when it comes to voter responsiveness; the polls have largely remained stable where we would typically expect set piece debates to shift the dial considerably. Labour’s debate strategy has reflected its wider remarkably risk-averse campaign, while the Tories simply failed to use the debates to land any vote-winning narrative – with Sunak only dialling up the rhetoric for the final BBC head-to-head.

The lack of responsiveness of the polls to the debates speaks volumes both to the reticence of both parties to make any kind of misstep, and the quality and challenging format of the debates themselves – widely panned by mainstream media as being overly soundbite-led, with no party given time to get into the meat of policy thinking. Notable exceptions are those that allowed for long-form live individual interviews.

The Sky (Beth Rigby) Leaders’ Debate, in particular, was widely praised for putting significant pressure on both party leaders. The format used by Sky – of a live 1-2-1 interview with a journalist, followed by questions from the live audience – is easily the most compelling format of the election, but requires a highly skilled journalist to pull off successfully.

Despite facing the most apathetic electorate in recent years, both camps are struggling valiantly to use debates to inject life into their campaigns – with both clipping the sections that best suit them to push key messages on their social channels. However, as the polls show, little seems to be making real impact.

With every major poll predicting a major Tory wipeout, the Conservative campaign team is firmly in damage control mode – whether they have been successful in reversing the damage will become clear in a matter of days.


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Tokking political campaigning to the next level: How Labour and the Conservatives are using TikTok for election campaigning

This is the first General Election in the UK where TikTok is playing a leading role in the parties’ communications strategies. “Sorry to be breaking into your usual politics-free feed,” announced Rishi Sunak in the first TikTok published by the Conservative’s new account last month. The platform launched in the UK in 2018 and was still finding its footing during the 2019 General Election. In the latest edition of its Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes Report, Ofcom noted that 37% of the participants had watched video content on TikTok within the last 12 months.

TikTok’s rapidly growing userbase has rarely shied away from discussing politics. As both parties establish themselves on the platform, there are important reminders about planning comms campaigns when reviewing their launches and initial weeks on TikTok.

TikTok? Isn’t it banned?

Seeing politicians on TikTok may raise some questions with its users. The social platform has found itself under the scrutiny of governments across the world. The UK government banned TikTok from government-issued devices last year. Crucially, these limitations do not stop parties from creating accounts and publishing content on TikTok. Still, there is a certain irony about politicians pivoting from slamming TikTok just last year to now using it as their latest campaigning channel.

Unlike other social media platforms, TikTok will reject any political adverts. This means the parties cannot pay to push adverts to potential voters who they want to see their election messaging. They must create compelling content that users engage with and share with their followers.

The prevalence of misinformation surrounding the election is another important reason for the parties to create their own accounts. TikTok users have been subjected to false information about policies and candidates, including claims of 18-year-olds being deployed in war zones during their national service if the Tories were to win. The creation of party accounts will allow Labour and the Conservations to challenge misinformation published on TikTok.

Taking the first steps into a brave new TikTok world

The Conservatives and Labour launched their TikTok accounts shortly after the election was called. They both featured their leaders talking head-on to the camera in their debut posts. But whilst Sunak was filmed in an empty room with an imposing wood panelled background, Starmer had a group of supporters brandishing Change placards in the background of Labour’s first video. Keir used his 11 second video to repeat his party’s election messaging and encourage viewers to vote for Labour, whilst Rishi explained his widely criticised national service policy.

Unlike other social networks, such as Instagram, TikTok and its users put a lower value on perfectly shot and lit videos. In fact, some of the platforms’ most watched videos have featured someone walking down the street, ad libbing to their phone. The Conservatives’ first video may look more professional, but that’s not content TikTok users are desperate to see. Labour’s video will still have had a team filming and editing it, but featuring a crowd of supporters behind Keir does give the impression that he’s shot this on the fly and fits more closely alongside other content on TikTok.

The Conservatives had an uphill battle launching on TikTok. Its userbase’s average age skews far younger than the average age of a Conservative voter. This first video wasn’t able to explain why a sceptical TikTok viewer should vote for them.

Unpacking the parties’ identities on TikTok

Since both the launch posts have been published, Labour and the Conservatives have used their TikTok accounts to react to and critique announcements coming from the other party. Where this reactionary content was previously in the form of witty one-liners, photoshops, and GIFs on X, both parties are now making use of the video formats and editing available on TikTok.

The Labour Party heavily criticised the Conservative’s proposed national service policy, publishing multiple videos ridiculing it. These videos have used clips that will be easily recognised to TikTok users. A cut from Cilla Black singing Surprise! Surprise! with the caption POV: Rishi Sunak turning up on your 18th birthday to send you to war has now been viewed over five million times. This type of content demonstrates both an understanding of what performs well on TikTok and the ability to be able to make it relevant to political news.


Surprise surprise #generalelection #toriesout #ukelection #ukpolitics

♬ original sound – UKLabour

The Conservatives’ posts have clapped back at Labour’s response to the national service plans. One video features James Cleverly reacting to an interview Rachel Reeves had with Laura Kuenssberg, with him claiming that Labour could cut funding for apprentices.


James Cleverly calls out Labour’s dithering #uk #generalelection #rishisunak #conservative

♬ original sound – Conservatives

Learnings for integrated campaigns

TikTok may be the new kid on the block for this General Election but how Labour and the Conservatives have launched their accounts offers useful reminders on some age-old rules for integrated campaigns.

Go to where your audiences are

With attention spans getting shorter by the day, organisations cannot rely on people proactively visiting their websites or searching for their press releases. They instead need to communicate on the channels they know their audiences regularly use. For political parties trying to reach younger voters, that’s TikTok.

Understand the expectations for how you should communicate on a channel

Just as the format and tone of voice for an organisation’s press release should be different to a post published on its LinkedIn account, so too should any content published on TikTok. Copying and pasting language from a press release into a TikTok post is unlikely to get a positive reaction. Organisations who are successful on TikTok (or any social media platform) take the time to consider which points from an announcement or release their audiences need to know about and how these points can be told in a relevant and engaging way on the platform.

First impressions matter

Many of the media outlets reporting on the launch of these two new TikTok accounts praised Labour’s content and critiqued the Conservatives’ approach. This narrative in the media has continued despite the Conservative account more recently using similar tactics to content published by Labour.

This inability to change the perspective that the Conservatives’ TikTok content isn’t working demonstrates how important first impressions are for any campaign. They can be extremely hard to change and will set the tone for the rest of the campaign.

Don’t underestimate the value of timely reactive communications

The most successful social media campaigns publish both planned and reactive content. Giving space for reactive content is undoubtedly more challenging to manage than scheduling all your posts in advance. But the upsides of this include being able to directly address incorrect information and communicate directly with your target audiences. Their reactions to your content are an invaluable way of getting feedback on your campaign in near real-time.

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Labour Manifesto Sector Analysis

Despite the brief interruption of a heckler, there will be sighs of relief after today’s launch of Labour’s manifesto. As predicted there were no surprises and many of the big policies had been briefed well in advance. What it demonstrates is quite how serious Sir Keir is about winning the election and reassuring the swing voters he needs for a healthy majority.

The five ‘missions’ are padded out a little but the focus is undeniably one of economic growth and reassurance that Labour can be trusted on the economy. Will everyone be happy with the manifesto? Well no, there are already grumblings on the left of the party that it’s not radical enough. But as Sir Keir made abundantly clear in the Sky News debate last night – his priority is country not party, and today’s manifesto is a clear reflection of this mantra.

Jennifer Gerber, Senior Political Advisor, WA and and former Labour Special Advisor

To read our analysis on what the Labour Manifesto means by sector, click below to download: 

Education and Skills

→ Click to download


→ Click to download

Financial and Professional Services 

→ Click to download

Health and Life Sciences

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→ Click to download


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The Paths to Power with YouGov’s Patrick English

Patrick English, Director of Political Analytics at YouGov, joined WA to explore our exclusive polling and analysis of Labour’s potential paths to power and the electoral trends that will shape a Labour government – and to discuss the implications of their latest MRP poll, which predicts a landslide win for Keir Starmer next month.  

Our Paths to Power research is part of WA’s ‘Next Left’ Guide to the Shape of a New Government – which explores what a Labour Government would look like in detail, including analysis of leading PPCs, a look at the role Unions play under a Labour Government, the key moments in the first 100 days, and more. 

YouGov’s first projection of the election campaign showed Labour on track for a historic majority of 194. Victory on this scale would bring in well over 200 additional Labour MPs and new constituencies with a diverse spread of demographics. 

Patrick English, Director of Political Analytics at YouGov, sat down to explore four possible scenarios for Labour with Tom Frackowiak, Partner at WA Communications.  

An underwhelming swing 

YouGov’s polling has stayed resolute since the start of the election campaign and shows no sign of narrowing. At this stage, a hung parliament with Labour as the largest party would be seen as a disaster for Starmer. However, key Labour figures are not complacent and will be aware that this remains a possibility.  

In this eventuality, Labour would likely take solace in their retention of ‘Red Wall’ seats that lost faith in the party in 2019.  

However, without a majority, Starmer’s ability to pass legislation would be dependent on securing cross-party support and he may have to offer significant concessions on his legislative agenda.  

Skin of their teeth 

A small Labour majority would be seen as an underwhelming success for the party and would have implications for their plans in Government.  

Under this scenario, Labour would win back constituencies that haven’t voted red in over a generation, including key southern battlegrounds. Labour’s Parliamentary representation would broaden, moving away from the urban-heavy base we have seen over the last five years.  

This would undoubtedly give Starmer a smaller mandate than he’d hope for. He would need to deliver short-term reforms required to secure a second term and satisfy factions within his own party at the same time.  

Strong and stable  

A 10-point swing or more will see Starmer emulate Boris Johnson’s 2019 election victory. This would make considerable in-roads into Conservative, Lib Dem and SNP held seats, including crucial constituencies in the West Country that have been apathetic at best towards Labour since the Blair-era.  

This would bring a whole host of new interests into the Labour Party. Crucially, it would enable Labour to set a course for policy changes over two parliamentary terms, with Starmer safe in the knowledge that challenges to his leadership and authority would be neutered in the immediate term.   

Full-fat Labour majority 

A Labour landslide would leave Starmer in dreamland. A 15–20-point swing is a big ask, but not impossible and YouGov’s latest projection puts Labour within this bracket.  

In this event, Labour would secure seats in traditionally Conservative-voting areas and claw back almost all of their losses in Scotland, reducing the vote share and influence of the SNP in Westminster.  

Starmer would see this as a total success and iron-clad mandate to govern on his decade of renewal. 

All sunshine and roses?  

Patrick finished our discussion by setting out a medium-term challenge for Labour: the electorate’s motivation.  

Currently, voters are not rallying behind Labour out of enthusiasm, but out of discontent with the Conservatives.  

If Labour win the General Election, regardless of the margin, a priority will be inspiring genuine optimism among the electorate. Without convincing voters of their positive vision for the future, Labour risks seeing their lead in the polls become unstable.  

Starmer must ensure that Labour’s policies and ambitions resonate deeply with the public, fostering lasting support that goes beyond mere dissatisfaction with the alternative. 


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Conservative Manifesto Sector Analysis

The Conservatives’ manifesto is a much longer document than Labour’s will be later this week. Nonetheless the essential pitch can be summarised in two words: tax cuts. There are an estimated £17 billion worth of tax cuts outlined in the manifesto to be implemented over the next parliament. They range from further reductions to national insurance to abolishing stamp duty for young home buyers. The proposals are vaguely costed but Rishi Sunak’s main objective is not to demonstrate their feasibility. He seeks to create dividing lines with Labour over tax, often a vote winner for the Conservatives in the past. This time the electoral context is bleak for him and his party. Privately senior Tories are in despair about their prospects and fear the manifesto will not be a game changer.

Steve Richards, Senior Adviser, WA Communications 

To read our analysis on what the Conservative Manifesto means by sector, click below to download: 

Education and Skills

Click to download


Click to download

Financial and Professional Services 

Click to download


Click to download


Click to download


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The Liberal Democrat manifesto launch – For a Fair Deal

This morning, the Liberal Democrats became the first mainstream party to launch their 2024 General Election manifesto – titled “For a Fair Deal” – at an event in London.

As was trailed by the party in advance of the launch, the NHS, environment, social care and the cost of living were central to the manifesto; all policies designed to attract voters in the previously Conservative-held ‘blue wall’ seats in southeast England and home counties.

Indeed, party leader Sir Ed Davey made a point of criticizing the Conservative government’s record in all of these policy areas in his speech, reflecting this strategic shift of closely targeting disaffected Tory voters.

The significant polling lead held by the Labour Party, and the size of their expected majority, meant that Davey was not inundated with questions from journalists regarding what his party might do if it needed to join with Labour in any kind of coalition.

Rather, the challenge facing the Lib Dems is one of influence: how Davey can leverage the political weight of what is expected to be the largest contingent of Lib Dem MPs for several parliaments to shift the governing agenda in their direction. Businesses should therefore view the Lib Dems of the forthcoming parliament through this lens: as a potentially influential stakeholder group that can no longer be dismissed as not having sway over government policy and the policy debate on the Labour benches.

In introducing the party’s centre-piece policies for the NHS and social care, Davey continued to tell the personal story of his care experience which he has highlighted throughout the campaign so far, saying that caring has “been in the shadows for far too long”.

What followed was an £8.35 billion commitment to free ‘personal care’ and 8,000 more GPs, along with an increase in carers’ allowance by £20 a week and a change to the rules on how much carers can earn. In a point of differentiation from Labour, Davey pledged to scrap the two-child limit on benefits introduced by the coalition government a decade ago. So far resisting to do the same, this issue could return as a headache for Starmer – with pressure from the Lib Dems – if he becomes Prime Minister.

Pledges on education, childcare, and foreign policy all followed – with the Lib Dems mirroring Labour’s fiscally cautious approach of explaining in simple terms how each major policy would be costed. For business, the general acceptance from both Labour and the Lib Dems that government is not flush with cash to pay for large policy commitments may pose a potential risk – as both parties have been happy to single out sectors of the economy that will see tax rises in order to cover costs of new social policy spending commitments.

In his speech, Davey referenced internet and social media firms, water companies, large banks and energy firms as targets for this – with more sectors lined up as money-raisers contained in the full manifesto document. While clearly these are popular policies with the public, as each party goes to great lengths to spell out how they will pay for things, businesses should be alive to the reputational risks that may arise from being attached to any costed policy during the campaign period.

Finally, two of the cornerstones of Liberal Democrat policy over the last decade – closer integration with Europe and electoral reform – were addressed by Davey towards the end of his speech. On Europe, he committed to ‘seeking to rejoin’ the EU single market – admitting the lengthy process that this would entail. With all major parties having been relatively quiet on the issue of Europe in the campaign thus far, this is an issue that an emboldened cohort of Lib Dem MPs may seek to apply pressure on Labour in the next parliament, and one that businesses interested in the UK-EU economic relationship should monitor, as a future Labour government will need to make significant decisions on this within their first few years.

Overall, while many of the party’s ‘greatest hit’ policies resurfaced once again, and previously ‘toxic’ issues like student tuition fees were notable in their absence, it is clear from today’s manifesto launch that the Lib Dems, anticipating the largest number of seats they have had in nearly 10 years, have built a focussed electoral strategy to chip off voters from the soft centre of the Conservative Party, worsening the headache for the Prime Minister and his campaign team, with neither the ‘Red’ or ‘Blue’ wall safe as we head towards election day.

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General Election Political Update – Labour’s Campaign

In my first week as Senior Political Advisor at WA Communications, I was delighted to be able to sit down with Lee Findell, Partner and Head of Corporate Comms at WA, to discuss how the general election campaign is going and share my experiences from working at the heart of numerous general election campaigns

The conversation is the latest in a series of events on the upcoming general election with senior political and media figures hosted by WA.

A change in fortunes for Labour…

With recent polling predicting a dramatic and potentially historic win for Labour, party strategists are allocating resources and targeting seats that would have been a distant dream only a few years ago. There’s no doubt Labour HQ has a long hit-list, looking to win a range of different seats across the full length and breadth of Britain.

From regular party supporters knocking on doors to shadow cabinet ministers looking to generate media buzz and voter engagement, allocating these resources is a key component of election strategy and a revealing factor for the ambitions of a political party embroiled mid-campaign. Labour is reaching further and further into traditional Conservative territory, moving resources away from seats that would have been key battlegrounds just 5 years ago, believing that Labour’s position is increasingly secure in those areas.

On the other hand, the Conservatives are on the defensive, and with Nigel Farage throwing his hat in the ring they risk having their constituency majorities squeezed from the right and the left. Conservative Cabinet Members are locked into defending their own seats, with scarce time or energy to venture further than their own doorstep. From Chanceller of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt to Cabinet stalwart Grant Shapps, some of the most senior Tories are locked in a battle for their job.

But no complacency from Labour…

Tuesday’s TV debate reminded the country, not to mention senior Labour figures, why the modern Conservative Party has earned the reputation as a general election winning machine. Sunak hounded Starmer with the line that households would pay an extra £2000 under a Labour government, which is a classic play of Conservative election campaigns. They are extremely effective at distilling a message down and relentlessly pushing it so that it cuts through and sticks with the public when they go to the ballot box. This instance has reminded Labour that they cannot take their lead for granted and are all too aware the Conservatives will pull out all the stops to claw back any kind of advantage.

Labour, consequently, is playing a careful game. They have been cautious to steer well clear of making unfunded spending commitments. Additionally, they recognise they are unlikely to have a lot of fiscal headroom in office and, therefore, are careful to avoid making policy promises they are unsure they will be able to keep once they open the books for the first time in office. Labour has been keen to mitigate and counter the relentless Tory election media strategy by avoiding making the mistakes of previous election campaigns.

Critically, the Labour Party and Shadow Cabinet of 2024 is an indicator of an extremely disciplined messaging machine. The uniformity of message and purpose from Labour when in front of a camera or near a microphone is a sign that they have learned from both their past mistakes, but also their past victories. Labour are equal parts trying to turn people on to voting for them as they are trying to stop people from turning off.

How a Labour government might behave…

The Labour Party under Keir Starmer is emblematic of a party that has undergone a drastic revolution from within. They have been transformed into a unified, disciplined electioneering organisation and this is a significant indicator as well of how Labour will behave in government. Starmer has prioritised, at times ruthlessly, installing allies in safe seats who might make promising ministers of the future, but critically will support his leadership. He is not just thinking about how he will win; he is planning how he will govern.


This article is part of our Next Left series, which examines the people and policies that will shape the next government if Labour wins power – explore the guide in full here.


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Saving face: The role of television debates in an election campaign

Last night, Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer faced each other in the first head-to-head debate of the election campaign. In a lively discussion, the leaders fought over taxation, public services and immigration in a bid to win over the public.  

As seen throughout the campaign, Starmer reiterated the need for ‘change’, positioning himself as an advocate for practical solutions and a brighter future. In contrast, Sunak stressed his ‘clear plan’ was working, portraying himself as a steady hand amidst uncertainty. 

Sunak’s strategy was evidently to come out on the attack, aiming to unsettle Starmer and reinforce doubts about Labour’s economic competence. Starmer, while initially shaky, gained confidence when addressing audience questions directly.  

Whilst Sunak’s performance slightly tipped YouGov’s snap poll (with 51% of favourable opinion), the same poll suggested Starmer came across as more likeable, in touch and trustworthy. On balance, neither leader ‘won’ the first debate.  

With just over four weeks to go until election day and the latest polls suggesting Labour is on course for a record win, we explore the role of television debates in an election campaign and whether they can ever turn the tide.  

Memorable shows – and no shows    

While television debates have been a firm fixture of US campaigns for decades, the UK only held its first debate in 2010.

The debate between then-party leaders Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg was watched by nearly 10 million viewers and triggered what became known as ‘Cleggmania’ – with support for the Liberal Democrats increasing by 14% the following day. Although interestingly, come election day Liberal Democrat support had fallen back down to pre-debate levels and they finished the election with fewer parliamentary seats.  

Following concerns around political bias, the set-up was overhauled during the 2015 election to accommodate seven party leaders, including Nicola Sturgeon and Nigel Farage. The messy format limited airtime for political leaders, and no conclusive ‘winner’ emerged from any of the debates.  

While broadcasters accommodated then Prime Minister Theresa May’s refusal to take part in television debates in 2017, citing lack of time due to the snap election, producers at Channel 4 were less sympathetic with Boris Johnson’s refusal to take part in a debate on climate change in 2019 – famously replacing him with a block of melting ice.  

History shows us that while television debates can shift the dial in the campaign, they are fraught with pitfalls. Sunak and Starmer may have escaped unscathed so far, but with seven-way debates coming down the track including with newly appointed Reform UK leader Nigel Farage – that could soon change.

The knight that won’t fight  

The noise and optics around televised debates can be just as important as the events themselves.  

In 2019, former SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon accused Boris Johnson of being a ‘scaredy cat’ because he refused to debate her. This became a common theme of Boris Johnson’s campaign, repeatedly refusing a sit-down interview with BBC’s Andrew Neil despite his opponents taking part in the grilling.  

Fast forward to 2024, and the Tories are mirroring this strategy with briefings around ‘Sir Fear Starmer’ and ‘the knight that won’t fight’, a tactic they will likely double down on given Starmer was clearly unsettled by Sunak’s approach last night. Given the potential pitfalls around televised debates and their strong lead in the polls, it is clear the Labour Party have more to lose in head-to-heads and Starmer’s team will be choosing media opportunities carefully.   

That Boris Johnson secured the biggest Tory majority since the 1980s demonstrates the effectiveness of his media strategy and that keeping quiet when you are winning is sometimes an effective strategy.  

Debating in a digital age  

The way the public consume news has changed significantly since the first televised debates in 2010, with only 4.8 million viewers watching last night’s debate.   

However, live commentary on social media channels, the ability to clip blunders, and the rise of political memes can create a longevity to television debates that wasn’t as impactful in 2010.  

#ITVDebate continues to trend on X this morning, with over 324k tweets so far, and politicians and media alike know that in a 60-minute debate, a five second clip can sometimes be the only thing an audience remembers and sometimes the only thing they see.  

This has changed the way leaders debate, moving to a focus on soundbites – such as Sunak’s repetition of a supposed £2,000 tax hike under Labour – rather than substance. While initial social media reaction suggests the public is wise to this, political teams will point to people talking about their strategies as successful cut through.  

Time to wrap up   

On paper, television debates are an opportunity for political leaders to directly engage with the UK public, answering questions from the audience and succinctly pitching their policies.  

In reality, the rise of social media and the fall in broadcast viewers means the surround sound to debates is often more important than the debate itself.  

Over the next few weeks, political strategists will set up gruelling role-play exercises to prepare politicians for upcoming debates, emphasising the importance of message delivery and creating the right sound bite.  

Only time will tell if it makes any difference.  

Follow us on LinkedIn for more insight and analysis on the general election campaign or contact to see how we can help achieve media cut through at this time.  

Upcoming debates and interviews  

WA Comms will provide regular insight and analysis during the televised debates, and we will assess whether they have indeed helped shift the dial after the last head-to-head debate on 26 June.  Here is a list of debates and set-pieces announced so far:  

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A guide on how the pre-election period impacts DHSC, the NHS, health regulators and what that means for Life Sciences companies

Following the dissolution of Parliament last week, we have officially entered the pre-election period. The impact of this period on Parliamentary activity, and the ramifications for MPs, is well understood, but there are wider implications that impact the machinery of Government and how Governmental bodies operate.    

For companies within the health and life sciences landscape, this is particularly pertinent as organisations impacted by the pre-election period, such as the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England, and NICE play a key role in the medicines access process and wider health policy to support this.  

We have taken the time to analyse the pre-election period impact, as well as what may happen to ongoing policy developments to support Life Sciences companies during this period and beyond.   

Department of Health and Social Care  

In line with official Civil Service guidance, the activity of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will be reduced during the election, putting into question ongoing policy activity.  

Perhaps the most awaited piece of policy activity is the Major Conditions Strategy that was touted to be published this summer, with work well underway to develop it. As it was not published before Parliament, it will now be a matter for the next Government as to whether they wish to progress with this policy initiative. 

NHS England  

NHS England (NHSE) have published their guidance for the pre-election guidance for NHS organisations, which places NHSE under strict requirements not to make any announcements on policy, strategy, procurement, or business development during this period.  

NHSE are not permitted to launch consultations during the pre-election period unless they are considered essential. Ongoing consultations should continue but should not be promoted and existing consultations can be extended if deemed appropriate.  

This puts into question the timing of the consultation on the updated Commercial Framework for New Medicines that was originally due to be published in June.  

As for medicines access and approval, NHSE will continue to operate as normal, but the pre-election period may impact public facing activity following agreements.  


The Medicines and Healthcare product Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will conduct activity in line with civil service guidelines for the pre-election period, so do not expect any policy activity over this period.  

Communications referring to items such as licensing announcements, marketing authorisations, and manufacturing licensing will continue as normal through their customer service team. 

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) adhere to the same guidelines which means during the pre-election period they will avoid posting news on updates to NICE methods, changes to NICE policy, or consultation results during this time. 

However, the pre-election period does not prevent NICE from operating as usual in terms of publishing guidance or HTA recommendations. This work will continue to the same timeframe and cannot be influenced during the pre-election period by NHS England or Government. 

This means that during this time, NICE will continue to progress key policy areas such as highly specialised technology criteria and the severity modifier internally, but wider consultation and public engagement with industry on these issues may not occur until after the election.  

In Scotland, Government business will continue as normal as the Scottish Parliament is still in session. That said, Scottish Government civil servants, including those working with Government agencies such as the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC), are to conduct themselves in line with the Civil Service Code and exercise caution when conducting public activity that could have a bearing on the UK General Election. 

For the SMC, this means business will continue as normal but activity with reserved or cross-border implications, such as activity with NICE, may be postponed until after the election.  

If you would like further information on the impact of the pre-election period and to discuss opportunities to engage with relevant stakeholders during this time, please do get in touch – [].  

WA have also prepared a guide on how best to hit the ground running, assessing the first 100 days post-election. This can be accessed here: 


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Political Update with Steve Richards – an unexpected Election

This week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Steve Richards, WA Senior Advisor, on a webinar with over 150 corporate communications and public affairs professionals to discuss the General Election. It is fair to say there were only few people on the call who anticipated we would be going to the polls on 4th July! 

Steve’s analysis on why Rishi Sunak called the election now is based on two key factors: a calculation that the Government’s fiscal and political position is as strong as it is going to be at any point from now until the end of 2024; and the realisation from the Prime Minister that holding the Conservative party together until November, as it is impacted by ‘events’, might not be sustainable. However, Steve confirmed that from his private conversations with Conservative MPs many are unhappy with the decision to go early, and not as expected in the autumn, when the UK’s economic picture might have improved.  

A large part of our discussion focused on the different campaigning strategies of the Labour and Conservative parties, which are already clear to see.  

With a sizeable lead coming into the campaign (many polls still have Labour leading the Conservatives by over 20%), Keir Starmer and his chief lieutenant Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves have adopted a ‘big tent approach’ in an attempt to appeal to a broad range of voters right across the country. This is also reflected by the cautious nature of Labour’s policy approach, and particularly its attempts to not be out-flanked by the Conservatives on tax.  

In contrast the Conservatives, whose vote is being squeezed by Labour and the Liberal Democrats, but most dangerously by Reform, who are committed to running candidates in every constituency, have adopted a ‘core vote strategy’. This is focused on older voters, and hence why we have seen eye-catching polices announced on mandatory national service and a commitment to never tax the state pension, dubbed the ‘quadruple lock’. 

As with all General Elections we can expect this campaign to be fast, dynamic and exhausting, and full of gotcha media moments, and big policy interventions.  

Therefore, from a professional perspective for in-house practitioners and consultants advising C-suite audiences, Steve has four pieces of advice: 

  1. Forensically analyse any Conservative policy to properly understand why it has been made. It is likely that it is linked to their core vote strategy.  
  2. Track through Labour policy to see how it could be implemented if they form the next Government, so you are on the front foot. A lot of this detail still needs to be worked out, but you can expect an ‘interventionist’ or ‘active’ state if Keir Starmer becomes the next Prime Minister (see FT leaked memo on Labour’s issues list for a sense of inbound priorities). 
  3. Think about how your business or organisation can support a Labour Government with its first mission, focused on economic growth and the creation of good jobs across the UK.  
  4. Watch out for campaign “cock-ups”, which will inevitably happen. Analyse the reaction to see if it is just commentary or hysteria, or a genuine moment that moves the dial (see Theresa May’s 2107 general election social care policy announcement as a case study). 

I would also add one thing that communications professionals should consider in their advice. It is easy to get swept up in the current of political thinking, and in this General Election that narrative is that Labour will win a landslide. The polls might well be correct, but equally the General Elections of 2015 and 2019, and the EU Referendum of 2016, show polling is not always right, or at least the interpretation of polling, and the subsequent perceived narratives might not be.  

So it is important to do proper scenario planning early in this campaign on General Election outcomes.  For example, a Labour government with a big majority will be a very different beast to one that has a 30-40 seat majority. 

This is something we explored in detail, in recent bespoke WA research with YouGov, as part of our ‘Next Left?’ guide to The Shape of a Labour Government. Our research identifies the constituencies behind four potential scenarios in which Labour takes power, looking at the types of voters that would switch to the party, and the backbench issues and priorities that might feed into Keir Starmer’s decision making based on those different scenarios.  

From regaining the Red Wall and a hung parliament; to a majority that is more secure but driven by an electorate far more cautious about government spending and intervention, there are many potential outcomes. 

And here I bring you back to the 4th July being an unexpected election! 



This article is part of our Next Left series, which examines the people and policies that will shape the next government if Labour wins power – explore the guide in full here.


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A ‘Change’ Election – for the Country, and for the Parties

From the Labour Party’s ‘slow and steady’ approach and a relentless focus from the Lib Dems, to the potential decline in Scottish Nationalism and a battle for the soul of the Conservative Party – the general election campaign sees changing party strategies as well as the possibility of change for the country.

The Conservative Party

Has Rishi Sunak fired the starting gun for a general election or the battle in the fight for the soul of the Conservative Party? As the Party machinery goes into campaigning mode, it is worth considering Sunak’s chance.

But first, how did we get here? For Sunak, the logic is clear. The polls haven’t shifted despite his best efforts and Sunak has decided to pull the general election lever to change his political fortunes. Holding out until November and being perceived by the electorate as vainly waiting for any kind of good news would’ve risked fueling the sitting duck narrative.

Never say never: Three measures of success for Sunak’s campaign

Febrile election campaigns can throw up any kind of outcome contrary to conventional wisdom. A measure of Sunak’s campaigning success will be a seismic shift of the political narrative and public opinion to narrow-in on Starmer’s average 17-point lead, bringing it down to a margin of uncertainty sufficient for a possible rabbit out the hat type moment.

A second measure of success for Sunak’s campaign will be the movements of Tory big beasts and possible leadership successors. Will the chief Conservative campaigner of the 21st century, Boris Johnson, put aside the et tu, Brute maneuverer of his former Chancellor and make a return to pounding the streets for the sake of the Party?

It’ll be worth keeping an eye out for Sunak’s successor hopefuls, such as Robert Jenrick or Suella Braverman, who will likely sit this one out. The only rationale for a successor hopeful to softly side with Sunak in this campaign is positioning as a future party unity candidate.

A third measure of success will be neutralising the Reform risk. Expect restoring the economy and the security of the UK in a more uncertain world to be the meta-framing of Sunak’s electoral pitch.

The National Service and “Triple Lock Plus” for pensioners reflects a survival campaign tactic of appealing to your base. Why? Because while Farage will not be standing for a seat, Reform UK risks outflanking the Tories from the right. Even some longstanding, loyal Conservative voters might even be asking, does my party really deserve to win again?

The Labour Party

If the Prime Minister was hopeful that Labour would be taken off-guard by his surprise announcement of the general election last Wednesday, he has surely been disappointed. Having pushed the party machine to prepare for an election from May onwards, Starmer and his campaign chief Morgan McSweeney have made a point of being prepared.

With vetted candidates in place across most winnable seats and a messaging strategy and manifesto agreed, Labour has managed to smoothly transition into campaign mode ahead of the dissolution of Parliament. Indeed, while the Prime Minister was still drying off from his speech on the steps of Downing Street, Starmer’s team launched a slick campaign video announcing the party’s election slogan: simply, ‘Change.’

Going forward, we expect Starmer’s team to take a ‘slow and steady’ approach, taking few if any risks – a strategy which makes sense if you are defending a 20-point-plus poll lead. However, it would be a mistake to read too much into Starmer’s middle-of-the-road campaigning style. Far from representing a rehash of Blairism, the contours of a distinct Starmerite project are becoming clear.

The thesis shared by Starmer and his Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves, is that the UK is vulnerable – to international threats and domestic political upheaval – due to a public sense of insecurity. In their view, this multipronged insecurity caused the Brexit vote, Boris Johnson’s landslide win in 2019, the cost-of-living crisis, and it is feeding the growth of Nigel Farage’s Reform UK.

On a domestic level, their solution to insecurity is Rachel Reeves’ ‘securonomics’: a more active state using industrial policy, planning reform, and insourcing to stimulate growth, with proceeds reinvested in priorities like public services and defense. On the international stage, these policies will be supported by Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy’s ‘progressive realism’ which aims to secure UK supply chains while rebuilding ties in Europe.

Politically, this technocratic project is being communicated with the language and imagery of communitarianism – the slogan ‘country first, party second’, the use of the Union flag on party literature, and a hard line on crime and defense.

Despite its consistent poll leads and a drama-free first week of the campaign, Labour remains nervous. The party is used to losing, having spent the last 14 years in the wilderness, and McSweeney’s team is determined to root out complacency.

Even if they succeed and enter Downing Street, there is a list of simmering crises that could throw an incoming Labour government off track. These include global issues like the war in Ukraine, the Middle East conflict, and the potential return of Donald Trump. But they also include UK-specific issues, like sluggish economic growth and the financial precarity of universities and local councils – many of which are expected to go bust.

Starmer’s chief of staff, Sue Gray, is said to be actively planning for these eventualities to ensure the party is ready to react quickly. But even the best laid plans can collapse on contact with reality. Any one of these issues alone could cause a major headache for an incoming Labour government. Together, they could destroy the Starmer project before it has even got started.

The Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrat’s strategy this General Election is relatively easy to understand: relentlessly focus on the 70-90 seats where they are clearly the best placed party to defeat the Conservatives, and largely ignore the rest of the country. They are no longer positioning themselves as equidistant between the two larger parties – they are unashamedly anti-Tory, setting themselves up as the only people who can defeat the Conservatives in certain parts of the country.

This hyper-localised and focused approach will focus on two different types of seat.

Firstly, large swathes of what has become known as the ‘Blue Wall’: largely in the South East as well as a handful of seats in the north with similar characteristics. These areas have seen demographic change in recent years with younger families moving out from London, have higher than average proportions of ‘Remain’ voters, and a population with more ‘liberal’ values. The fact that the Prime Minister visited four key Lib Dem target seats across South West London, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire this weekend shows the impact this strategy is having.

Secondly, those parts of the UK where the party has traditional strength, particularly the South West.

As always within the Liberal Democrat party, some excited activists see an opportunity to secure upwards of 70 seats. More seasoned hands in the party see 40-50 seats as success. Unlike 2019, there is a laser-focus on targeting resources at those seats that are genuinely winnable.

In terms of campaign themes, Brexit is largely off the table, with the focus being on the environment and the quality of public services, particularly care. However, the level of policy detail sitting behind these issues is very limited. Were the party to play a more significant role in the next parliament their level of policy thinking – and the input from businesses into this – will need to mature significantly, quickly.

The Manifesto – and other policy announcements throughout the campaign – will focus on these themes and issues that will be seen to resonate with target voters in these key seats. Expect a small number of impactful policies – tougher water regulation, improved access to GPs, and new resources for the care sector.


Labour, the SNP and the battle over the border

Scotland remains pivotal in determining which party forms the next UK Government. The overall General Election contest will be defined by the resurgence of Labour in the region – but does the Scottish National Party (SNP) still stand in the way?

The SNP has dominated Scottish polls for the last decade or so, but the Party faces significant challenges as it enters this campaign period.

While the SNP secured 45% of the vote and 48 of Scotland’s 59 seats in the 2019 General Election, recent Ipsos polling indicates a more negative outlook for 2024, with strong public dissatisfaction over living standards. Notably, and potentially damaging in the long term, independence — once a defining feature of the SNP — has fallen to fifth place on the list of priorities for Scots. It now finds itself trailing behind the NHS, cost of living, education, and the wider economy.

Thrown in at the deep end, the newly elected First Minister John Swinney hopes to rescue the Party from growing dissatisfaction amongst voters, a loss of donors and public skepticism off the back of recent policy failures and police investigations.

Working to put these hurdles behind him, Swinney’s campaign “Put Scotland First,” aims to re-engage voters by focusing on uniting Scottish people and bringing independence back to the forefront of SNP ambition.

In the meantime, capitalising on growing SNP discontent and working to reinstate the credibility of Scottish Labour alongside the popular Anas Sarwar, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has placed Scotland at the centre of his campaign, stressing its importance for national renewal. “There’s no Labour without Scotland”, the two leaders stated at the Party’s campaign launch in Glasgow last week.

Whilst Scottish votes are unlikely to solely determine the next ruling party in Westminster, with 57 seats up for grabs, the voting sway of Scots could significantly impact the extent of Labour’s victory.  Recent polling indicates a remarkable red resurgence, suggesting they could win over 30 seats, while the SNP’s representation could drop to the low teens.

This contest is crucial, and one to watch closely. The outcome will depend on the degree to which the SNP can regain the trust of the Scots, how far Starmer is committed to visiting the region, and to what extent he, and Anas Sarwar, can truly make voters believe that Scotland will be a centerpiece of a future Labour government.


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Hitting the ground running: The first 100 days

The days after a Labour General Election win will see wide-ranging change in SW1, as well as the country.

A selection of immediately deliverable policy changes are almost certain,100+ Ministers will meet their private office teams, set priorities and seek out profile-raising opportunities, and potentially 200+ brand new MPs will pick up their parliamentary pass for the first time and navigate the corridors of power.

Crucial moments abound – from the day after the election, and as MPs and Ministers take up their positions over the next week, to key parliamentary moments throughout the subsequent 2-3 months:

First 100 days of the new government 

First 10 days

Ministerial Appointments

More than 100 new Ministers will pick up their red boxes, and meet with senior civil servants from across each department to set out their priorities.

Special Adviser appointments will also be made quickly, including key Downing Street roles such as the Prime Minister’s Director of Communications.

On page 68 of our Next Left guide, Natasha Egan-Sjodin, former Head of Ministerial Briefing at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, explores in detail the briefing of a brand new minister.

Electing a Commons Speaker and Swearing-in of MPs and Peers

First 30 days

King’s Speech

This will set out the government’s key priorities, and also their likely sequencing.

In the scenario of a minority government or confidence-and-supply arrangement, it will be the first test of Labour’s ability to command the confidence of the Commons.

Select Committees

Key Select Committees – such as the Treasury and Public Account Committees – will typically be formed within three to four weeks of Parliament reconvening after the election, with Chairs being elected by MPs. Committees announcing their first inquiries will offer one of the first opportunities for targeted engagement.

First 100 days

Emergency Budget

The Chancellor of the Exchequer will start to set out the new government’s economic strategy, public finance measures, and taxation policies, most likely when Parliament returns in September.

Comprehensive Spending Review

The most recent spending review in Autumn 2021 set departmental budgets up to the end of March 2025. This may lead to two possible outcomes – a one-year CSR from the current government which Labour will adopt, or Labour being compelled to roll-over departmental budgets for a year to give them breathing space to conduct a full multi-year CSR from 2026.

Machinery of Government changes

Labour’s Five Missions typically bring together policy objectives that would span multiple government departments – so a Labour administration, and Sue Gray in particular, will be looking at how central government is structured, to ensure deliverability and accountability around these key priorities.

This might mean changes to government departments, but broader use of Cabinet Committees, cross-departmental teams, the appointment of external ‘czars’, and greater use of taskforces could also be options.

All-Party Parliamentary Groups

APPGs will reform in a less formal way – with changes to groups, and the speed of formations depending on the number of existing MPs returning to Westminster, and the range of interests across the new Parliament.



This article is part of our Next Left series, which examines the people and policies that will shape the next government if Labour wins power – explore the guide in full here.


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How to get your story heard during a General Election campaign?

A change of government can be a daunting prospect for brands seeking to protect and enhance their reputations amidst shifting national priorities, policies and regulations.

In this age of rolling news and trigger-finger social media, there is a real risk of corporate announcements becoming politicised in the febrile months immediately before and after an election.

So we thought we’d draw on our experience – and that of our media network – to find ways through this critical period.

We asked two senior journalists for their views on two contrasting scenarios:

  1. What should brands do if they inadvertently become a political football in the election period?
  2. How can organisations connect with media if they are struggling to find airtime?

Our huge thanks to Caroline Wheeler, Political Editor, The Sunday Times, and Sam Rix, Senior News Editor, Good Morning Britain, for sharing their thoughts, as part of our ‘Navigating the media in an election year’ breakfast.

How to respond if you find yourself in the eye of the political storm?

As the American newspaper publisher-turned-showman P. T. Barnum reportedly said: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” But try telling that to your comms team when your organisation is unintentionally drawn into the storm.

Our panel gave three clear recommendations to help.

1. Create bespoke packages for your most influential media

As a Sunday newspaper Editor, Caroline Wheeler lives and breathes exclusives. For her, the key to successful brand management lies in selective media engagement.

“My view is that blanket coverage which is out of control will be more difficult, if you do get into trouble with the media” she said. “Who are the audiences you want to target? What is your messaging? What is the media going to be interested in?

“Build a bespoke package for key media so you have control over that coverage. If you put out blanket coverage, it tends to fuel the news cycle. Careful management will be more effective in shutting down the news story. There will be one more day of it, but you feed the beast once in a compelling way.”

She cited the example of Henry Staunton, the former Post Office chairman, who put a bombshell under the Department of Business and Trade with one carefully crafted Sunday Times interview.

2. Don’t be too defensive

Journalists will assume they are onto something if your comms team is too defensive – all the more so if that turns to outright hostility.

“There is always defensiveness from people who have not been in the [media] industry and defensiveness tends to perpetuate the story rather than shut it down,” Wheeler said.

3. Respond quickly to frame how the story is told

There are times when putting your head above the parapet is ill-advised. But if you know that a story has legs, it often pays to engage. Sam Rix said that early intervention is best, to frame how your story is being told in the media.

“A quick response that will help frame the narrative is important,” Rix said. “You tell your story first, before the media do. Frame the narrative and make it your story.”

How to get your story heard during a busy election campaign?

Many a PR will agree with Oscar Wilde when he wrote: “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

Seasoned journalists gave us their views on how communications professionals stand the best chance of getting heard during the election tumult.

1. Make sure to build relationships with key media

When space is short and competition for stories even more intense, personal relationships become even more important.

“It is good to have contacts in the media before we get to an election. Go to events, invite a prominent journalist to come to your event, to establish your own network. It’s important to build relationships.” Wheeler said.

2. Make sure you have a compelling story to tell

At a time when media interest can become myopic, if you are able to present interesting, counter-intuitive information, then you stand a decent chance of having your voice heard.

“The old adage is true: dog bites man is not an interesting story, but man bites dog is. Have you got a narrative that is going to solicit interest?” Wheeler said.

3. Commission polling or focus groups to provide information a journalist can use

Polling or focus group work only gains in importance at election time. If you can find the resources to pay for national polling on interesting issues you might well cut through the noise. Especially if you can pay for those expensive constituency-level surveys.

“Providing that added value is a very good thing. Many newspapers can’t afford to do any polling in a consistent way. If you can commission a piece of polling, that might help,” Wheeler said.

Before joining WA, Philip spent more than a decade as a senior journalist at The Times, including more than five year’s as the paper’s Transport Correspondent.



This article is part of our Next Left series, which examines the people and policies that will shape the next government if Labour wins power – explore the guide in full here.


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Navigating the Media in an Election Year

Uncovering, shaping and setting the political agenda, journalists across the media spectrum are important cogs in the wheels of Party decision making – particularly in the lead up to a General Election.  

Seeking to understand how media content changes, and adapts to, an increasingly polarised political landscape – and crucially how organisations can navigate this landscape and cut through the noise – WA Communications hosted Caroline Wheeler, Political Editor at The Sunday Times; Sam Rix, Senior News Editor at Good Morning Britain; and Steve Richards, WA Senior Adviser, broadcaster and journalist, for an in-depth panel session.  

This session is the latest in a series of WA events looking towards the 2024 General Election with senior political and media figures. 

Here are our main takeaways from the discussion, and our advice on how to navigate this shifting landscape: 

Setting the Agenda 

Although we live in an ever-evolving social sphere, the power of traditional media remains, driving public conversation and painting perceptions of those at the top of party politics.  

Sunday newspapers are the key orchestrators of this. Filled with whisperings from the corridors of power, exclusive interviews with key stakeholders, anonymous leaks and briefings and in-depth insights from company-led polls, print news holds influence over politicians, businesses and wider society – setting the weekly agenda and influencing broadcast coverage.  

In an election year, with people falling over themselves to have a say on the ongoing Labour-Conservative dividing lines, this influence is more heightened than ever.   

To achieve cut through, it will be important to align with the political narrative of the week and draw on ‘big splash’ interviews and regional political activities, offering new perspectives that play into shifting topics of interest. 

A Noisy Landscape  

The panelists painted a picture of an increasingly crowded media landscape this election period, pointing to strong voices on platforms like X – formerly Twitter – and the growing expectation for ‘all singing, all dancing’ interactive content.  

They noted how social media commentary from politicians, journalists and wider society changes media narratives and continually shifts agendas. Less ‘traditional’ channels like TikTok and podcasts are also increasingly shaping political rhetoric, driving news content, and maintaining – or often igniting – public engagement in certain stories.  

As we get closer to the General Election, we can expect media outlets to publish more data, audio, visual and short-form video content across Tik Tok, X and LinkedIn, as they continue their effort to keep abreast of the latest political developments.  

Surveilling and using these channels will be more important than ever in assessing how and where best to share your voice.  

Communication with Today’s Politicians  

It is no secret that media have long played into symbiotic relationships with politicians in Westminster, to obtain information and construct stories that shape narratives and connect with the public. 

Despite this, the panel outlined the hesitancy and cautious approach they have experienced from today’s politicians, who seem scared by a perceived threat of public-facing exposure. Whilst Conservative leaning papers struggle to show support for Rishi Sunak, Labour leader Keir Starmer struggles to engage with the media at all – a possible stumbling block in his leadership campaign.  

Overall, party communication with the media has been relatively weak, with the panel suggesting press offices are poorly briefed and spokespeople poorly guided. There are, however, some glimmers of hope for Labour in the likes of Wes Streeting and Lisa Nandy.  

Whilst the parties struggle to embrace media opportunities in the run up to the General Election, constructive engagement from businesses will be welcomed to fill this gap.  

Looking Ahead 

As the political landscape evolves, the panel predicted several key themes that are likely to shape media discourse in the coming months. 

This includes increased scrutiny over Government spending and party finances, particularly in areas related to green finance and cost-of-living. Artificial intelligence is also likely to have an increasing influence in the media, with deep fake clips resonating with social audiences. Beyond this, foreign affairs could play a more influential role in this year’s election, with a focus on the impact of the Donald Trump administration and the implications of the Israel-Gaza conflict.  

In light of these changing focuses, keeping an eye on media priorities will be the most effective way to determine which narratives to play into, which journalists and outlets are covering topics of interest to your business, and to pinpoint where you can offer new and stimulating perspectives. 

WA Communications works to help businesses navigate the shifting landscape, and land meaningful coverage across national, broadcast, trade and regional media.  

For more information on how WA can help, please contact or get in touch with or  


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