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E-scooters at a crossroads
E-scooters at a crossroads

Posts Tagged ‘The Labour Party’

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 media@wacomms.co.uk or get in touch with LeeFindell@wacomms.co.uk or RachelFord@wacomms.co.uk.  

 

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Ruthless Starmer Appoints a Team To Win and To Govern

Most shadow cabinet reshuffles do not matter very much. This one does for several reasons. Most fundamentally Keir Starmer hopes this will be his last reshuffle before the general election. Barring unforeseen circumstances his new team is the one that will form the next government if Labour wins the election. But there is another bigger reason why the reshuffle matters. Starmer is at the height of his powers in relation to his party, a leader well ahead in the polls. He is in the rare position for a Labour leader of being able to do more of less what he wants without fearing dissent.

This is Starmer’s team of choice and therefore sheds light on the type of government he seeks to lead and who he calculates will help him to win the election. He acted with characteristic ruthlessness but he had the rare space to be brutal.

One shadow cabinet member described the changes to me as an ‘elite level Blairite coup’. The frontbencher, who remains in the shadow cabinet, noted that five former special advisers from the Blair era now have prominent posts. They join several of those in Starmer’s office who used to work with Blair in some form or other. Starmer makes many calculations in promoting the rise of those that worship at the Blairite altar. He and his shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, are obsessed with following New Labour before 1997 in making no significant spending commitments.

Labour’s Blairite wing are the true believers in the argument that ‘reform’ and ‘technology’ are the key to revising the UK’s economy and public services, not big spending increases. Starmer wants ‘reform’ to be a driving theme at the party conference next month.

Meanwhile the likes of Liz Kendall, Pat McFadden and Peter Kyle are effective interviewees. The previous shadow cabinet had few impressive performers. Starmer also wants to show in vivid colours that Labour has made big leaps away from the Corbyn era. There is no more effective way of doing so than including in his top team those that are as far removed as it is possible to be from the former Labour leader.

But it is too simplistic to argue that the new shadow cabinet is ‘Blairite’ whatever that term means in the current context. Other factors came in to play. His elected deputy, Angela Rayner, needed a meaty brief and she has got one with the Levelling Up remit. Rayner is a pragmatist but is no Blairite. She will need to be extremely supple. Her predecessor, Lisa Nandy, had pledged an historic transfer of power away from the centre. Nandy assumed Starmer agreed with her as this was the main theme of his new year speech in January when he spoke of communities “taking back control”. But there are inevitable tensions over how much power the centre will want to retain rather than give away to mayors and councils. Rayner will be Deputy Prime Minister giving her some leverage over wider government policy.

Some close to Starmer wanted Ed Miliband sacked. This has not happened. Miliband helped Starmer secure his seat in the 2015 election. The two live close to each other although do not speak often these days. But Starmer remains committed to the so called green recovery plan even if he has wobbled over the ULEZ policy after losing the Uxbridge by-election.

I’m told that Sue Gray, Starmer’s new chief of staff, was one of those supporting the appointment of three front benchers to shadow the cabinet office, rather than one. This is unusual. Gray knows the cabinet office can be a driver of change in government but can also be a department where ministers pull levers and not much happens. Now Pat McFadden, Nick Thomas Symonds and Jonathan Ashworth will be preparing to pull various levers from the cabinet office if Labour wins. Thomas Symonds will be responsible for improving the Brexit deal , a complex challenging task which he has already discreetly begun from opposition. The appointment of Hilary Benn as shadow Northern Ireland Secretary is also significant in this context. Northern Ireland and Brexit remain thorny issues in spite of Sunak’s improvements to the protocol.

In terms of policy making the reshuffle has little practical impact in the short term. The shadow ministers responsible for Labour’s so called ‘missions’ are all still in place. Meanwhile Starmer’s office is as controlling as Blair’s used to be in the build up to 1997. He and Rachel Reeves will make the key policy decisions. Currently shadow cabinet members are preparing their conference speeches, but the leader’s office is taking a close interest in what each of them are proposing in various drafts, often sending back detailed revisions and cuts.

Of more immediate importance to the fate of Starmer and indeed Sunak are the by-elections coming up. If Labour do not gain Rutherglen in Scotland from the SNP, a seat they won in the 2017 general election when Jeremy Corbyn was leader, there will be no substantial revival there at the general election. If Labour wins Starmer has a fresh narrative, Labour is back in a part of the UK they used to dominate.The Mid Beds by-election is also a big test. Tactical voting becomes tricky when both Labour and the Lib Dems want to win as is currently the case in that seat.

After the next couple of months of by-elections, party conferences and an Autumn Statement from the chancellor the outcome of the general election will probably be clearer and what Labour will do in government will also be less foggy than it is now.

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The roadmap to Party Conference

Labour’s National Policy Forum plays a leading role in shaping the party’s election manifesto.  

Chaired by Anneliese Dodds and made up of around 200 representatives of Constituency Labour Party, Labour Councillors, affiliated trade unions and socialist societies, and the Parliamentary Labour Party, it oversees the party’s Policy Commissions, and is currently drafting indicative policy documents ahead of the party’s annual conference in October. 

Over the weekend, the Labour Party held its first full National Policy Forum meeting since 2014. (Snap elections in 2017 and 2019 meant that under Corbyn, the policy-making process was expedited to ensure the Party could launch its manifesto on time ahead of respective general elections. Unlike his predecessor however, Starmer has had the benefit of having a long run-in to the policy making forum that will inform the basis of Labour’s next manifesto).  

This has resulted in greater transparency of the outline of the platform Labour will look to take to the next election. 

Whilst the meeting of the National Policy Forum is a private meeting of the Party and the manifesto will not be publicly available until Party Conference, LabourList obtained a full list of the draft policy platform earlier this year.  

In advance of the meeting, Starmer and Reeves have been keen to set the tempo by adhering unfailingly in their commitment to absolute fiscal discipline should they come to power, and have proudly declared that nothing in their manifesto will be uncosted. Starmer asserted to delegates that a Labour Government “is not a magic wand” to undo the last 13 years, recognising that his Party – should they come to power – will inherit a bleak economic outlook. This approach has not come without criticism, and accusations that Labour are not being bolder in their policy development led to major unions Unite and GMB walking out from what has reportedly been ‘hostile talks’ at the meeting. 

Despite concerns over controversial policies such as not scrapping the two-child benefit and promising revisions to anti-protest laws, the Labour Leadership saw off the more radical proposals from the left wing of the party, and avoided any formal votes on amendments; meaning that the draft policy document presented to members after this weekend will be the one debated at Party Conference this October*. 

Over the Summer period Labour will look to hone its messaging around these policies, consider how to market them to the electorate and ensure the rumblings from the more disenfranchised elements of his Party are addressed.  

Labour will begin to slowly change the dial from development of policy to consolidation of it, and businesses should be aware of the narrowing window between now, Conference, and into early 2024 to try and influence manifesto development.

For Starmer and his team, the weekend will bring relief. Despite some friction, he has a clear mandate from his Party and its delegates to take forward to Party Conference in October. Buoyed by the by-election victory in Selby, Starmer has done enough to knit together warring factions to present a united front to the electorate as the general election begins to come into view. 

* Whilst the manifesto would normally be based on elements of policy developed by the NPF and voted on by members at the party’s annual conference, there is no formal obligation for the manifesto to include policy put forward by the NPF and the party’s membership. 

Next Left, our recent Guide to Engaging with the Labour Party, sets out the party’s policy-making processes and timeline in more detail. 

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Labouring to the point

Even though the energy crisis has taken a back seat in the news cycle, the impact it has had on consumers, their behaviour, and overall public awareness of where their energy comes from, is stark.

However many industry commentators believe that, to date, very little has been done by the Government to prevent such a crisis from happening again.

With several complex, but complementary, policy issues remaining high on voters’ agendas, the Labour Party has been tentatively navigating complex waters as it sets out its stall ahead of the next General Election, looking to capitalise on perceived current inaction.

Climate change, energy costs, and energy independence is a challenging trifecta to find a solution to at the best of times, let alone when the overriding priority is to project economic competence and fiscal trustworthiness.

An additional twist in the tale for Keir Starmer has been the dramatic way in which Scotland has electorally come into play, which 12 months ago he could only have dreamt of. Labour is now facing the very real prospect of tangible, double-digit Parliamentary gains north of the border, which could make the difference between a clear majority, or a hung Parliament.

Balancing each of these considerations has seen a number of previously solid commitments become softened, watered down, or changed altogether.

Two headline pledges, no new oil and gas licenses, and investing £28bn a year in green infrastructure, have been the main casualties.

The latter has been slightly amended so that instead of the full annual investment starting immediately, it’ll be built up to in the first half of a Labour Government. This has generally been interpreted as a pragmatic move, as deciding what to invest that level of money, finalising deals, and then spending it within 12 months was perhaps always an unrealistic timeline.

The former has been somewhat more eventful. Rifts have opened within the Labour front bench; and the unions, most notably the GMB, have started flexing their muscles. In addition, Anas Sarwar’s political capital has grown exponentially, making him an even more influential figure in the Party machine.

The result? A fudge. Labour will now honour any licences issued before the election, their position on CCS has suddenly become very positive, and the previous ban on new licences has now been limited to only blocking new exploration licenses, a minor but crucial difference, specifically aimed at keeping Scotland in play.

Beyond it being a fantastic case study for observers as to how the levers of power within the Labour Party work, it’s also a strong indication as to how seriously Keir Starmer is taking the Party’s policy development, not letting anything jeopardise any chance he may have of becoming the next Prime Minister.

‘Next Left’ – WA’s recently published Guide to Engaging with the Labour Party – explores the people, processes and politics shaping the development of Labour’s next election manifesto, and how businesses can engage with the party’s plans.

We will shortly be releasing a deep-dive specifically exploring the Labour Party’s emerging energy sector policies. To receive a copy, please email angushill@wacoms.co.uk.

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In Conversation with Steve Richards

WA Senior Adviser, broadcaster and journalist, Steve Richards and WA’s Head of Public Affairs, Marc Woolfson, provided their take on the latest developments in Westminster and Whitehall, and unpacked what this means for anyone seeking to engage with the Government and understand the potential priorities of a Labour administration.

This conversation is the latest in a series of discussions with senior political and media figures hosted by WA.

Yesterday morning, Steve shared his insights on the mood at No.10 before providing reflections on the Government-in-waiting and Starmer’s preparations to ‘take back control’ of the country.

We’ve outlined five key takeaways from the discussion below:

1. General Election still predicted for Autumn 2024

At the time of our conversation with Steve, the Privileges Committee had just released their report on how Boris Johnson misled the House. Following the resignation of Johnson and Nigel Adams over the weekend, Sunak now faces (at least) two challenging by-elections in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, and Selby and Ainsty. Amidst this upheaval, some in Labour are hoping for a snap election.

Steve, however, is still setting his sights on an election in Autumn next year. From his viewpoint, although there will be continuing challenges for Sunak arising from this event, Johnson’s exit from the Commons marks a significant diminishment of his political prowess and danger to Sunak.

Unless we see a significant closing in Labour’s lead, Sunak will likely delay the election in the hopes the tide will change by next year.

2. Zombie Parliament: Sunak’s five pledges

Beyond firefighting a constant stream of internal upheaval and scandal, Sunak remains focused – if not obsessed – on achieving the five pledges he set out in January (halve inflation; grow the economy; reduce national debt; shorten NHS wait lists; and stop the boats). Halving inflation by the end of this year is a must as Sunak cannot afford to approach an election with rising inflation rates.

As a result of this focus, there is talk of a ‘zombie parliament’ at Westminster. For the foreseeable future, activity in Parliament will mainly be used as a mechanism for building up to the election rather than to pass any weighty pieces of legislation. As an example, long-awaited proposed reforms to modernise the UK rail industry have fallen by the wayside.

Ultimately, there simply isn’t much legislative time available to the Government with preparation for the party conference in October, and long recesses pushing MPs back out to campaign in their constituencies.

Anyone seeking to engage with Government on legislation over the coming months may struggle unless it falls within the remit of Sunak’s five priorities.

3. Keir and Reeve’s cautious policy: Nothing without funding

Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves are taking a cautious approach; every piece of policy is submitted to Keir’s office for scrupulous checking for any claims that might imply an increase in spending.

The party’s proposal to scrap ‘Non-Dom’ tax status – which Labour says costs the Exchequer £3.2bn – is increasingly the answer to almost any question about the viability of its spending plans.

But with Jeremy Hunt rumoured to be looking at announcing exactly this move in the Autumn Statement, effectively removing this potential uplift from Labour’s plans, Kier is especially nervous about any discussion on spending.

Labour is also being very quiet on their policy plans and recently rowed back on commitments in their green recovery programme and on universal childcare.

In line with this preference for fiscal responsibility, as well as Blairite influences at the heart of Keir’s team, Labour is driving their focus towards policies that symbolise change without spending money, including technology, innovation, and AI.

4. Labour and business: Now until Autumn is the prime time to engage with Labour

Between now and Conference is an important time for industry to engage with Labour if they are looking to shape the direction of policy.

Starmer wants Labour to look like the party on the edge of forming a Government by the time Party Conference comes around in October. Speeches will need to be policy-rich, trailing their manifesto, which is already being drafted.

Labour is sincere in its claim that its door is open to business. Industry interest in the party serves as a reassuring recognition that they are viewed as the next likely candidate to form a Government. If Starmer wants to realise his mission to get the economy growing faster than any other country in the G7, Labour will need close relations with businesses to achieve this ambitious goal.

Jonathan Reynolds (Shadow Secretary of State for Business and Industrial Strategy) is expected to announce further details of Labour’s industrial strategy at Conference, formalising their goodwill towards industry.

However, if in power, relations may be more strained as Reeves seeks to fill her funding gap, with the potential for businesses to face new ‘stealth taxes’. Industry will benefit from putting in the groundwork now, during a period when Labour is reticent to reveal any tax rises that may make headlines during the pre-election test period.

5. Public sector and unions: The challenge ahead for a Labour Government

Winning the election will only be the first hurdle for Labour. Should they win, they are set to inherit a challenging landscape, especially in the public sector.

Unions present a considerable challenge. Labour hopes relations will improve through greater goodwill and by restructuring who is involved in negotiations. However, as New Labour did in 1997, Starmer plans to stick with Conservative spending plans for the first two to three years, so will not have the money to meet the pay demands of the unions.

On the NHS, Labour’s plans have been ambitious but vague. Although they highlight scrapping non-dom tax status as a means to pay for recruitment into the NHS, internally, Labour knows this will not be enough. Moreover, Wes Streeting has asserted his ambition to ‘reform’ the NHS but has not defined this ubiquitous term. Internally the party is divided on their position over the use of the private sector to meet capacity.

Starmer is also acutely aware that he has U-turned on many of his leadership pledges, including plans to abolish university tuition fees. At present, the current model for higher education would not see much change, however, if in power, university schemes and the graduate tax are areas Starmer may revisit.

The theme of the first term of a Labour Government will be dominated by one question: where’s the money coming from?

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Mission Impossible? Labour’s plan to tackle health and social care

What’s the substance of Labour’s health mission?

Labour’s recent ‘health mission’ unveiling is their most comprehensive offering on health policy yet. Labour would look to shift care out of the hospital and into the community, placing more attention on preventing rather than treating ill health. They would look to modernise the NHS, embracing digital and technological innovation to improve efficiency in the NHS. Their proposals also focus on making the NHS a more attractive place to work, to improve recruitment, training, and retention. And, aligning with current priorities in the health service, Labour would commit to tackling three of the country’s biggest killers: cancer, heart disease and suicide.

On the surface, the health mission lacks depth. However, it landed well, securing positive headlines on this most politically salient of issues.

Beyond the headlines, WA’s engagement with senior figures in the Labour Party and across British politics are reassuring, suggesting that far more detailed policies are in development. Health system leaders we have spoken to are optimistic about the proposals they have been consulted on. We also know that there is more opportunity ahead: Starmer is willing to grant freedom to those he trusts on policy development, tasking them to ‘think bold’.

Are Labour’s health ambitions achievable?

Prioritising community care, prevention and tackling health inequalities over the delivery of acute and elective care aligns with what the NHS needs. But Labour might find it difficult to achieve if they triumph at the next General Election. Waiting lists are at an all-time high, ambulance services are under considerable pressure and the NHS is under extreme financial scrutiny.

The urgent demands on the health agenda may limit Labour’s ability to deliver radical improvements in the NHS. Despite the positive reception of their policy offer among health system leaders, Labour have already discovered how difficult it can be to take everyone with them when proposing more radical change; Wes Streeting’s early announcements on primary care reform generated significant pushback from doctors’ unions.

In this crucial period for manifesto shaping, Labour will need to balance Starmer’s call for bold thinking with solutions that are politically palatable. Labour will need to develop policy solutions that combine quick wins with long-term innovative thinking. Health stakeholders will need to share policy proposals that align with short and long-term ambitions and show awareness of the balancing act required from Labour.

Is Labour’s mission-led approach likely to succeed?

When New Labour revived a crisis-ridden NHS it was transformative. However, it took a considerable amount of time and relied on heavy investment; neither are a luxury available to Starmer in the current political and financial climate.

The scale of the challenge lying ahead of Labour means they won’t be able to fix the NHS in one electoral term. Solving the health and social care crisis isn’t all about money and if Labour wants to follow through on their mission-led approach to health policy, they will need to invest the right money in the right areas.

Despite the challenges ahead, Starmer is convinced that bold thinking is the key to successful and progressive policy development. Working in partnership and embracing innovation from all sectors could be pivotal in this approach.

More information about Labour’s policy-making process, the battlegrounds for business, and how organisations can get heard can be found in WA’s Guide to Engaging with the Labour Party.

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The policy platform that will shape Labour’s manifesto

Last week, details of the Labour policy handbook that serves as the initial blueprint for the party’s next manifesto was circulated, ahead of the next meeting of Labour’s National Policy Forum (NPF).

The full summary of policy positions was revealed online by LabourList.

The policies included will be subject to scrutiny and debate by members involved in the NPF, with amendments able to be filed until June. The National Policy Forum will meet in July to discuss its contents ahead of the Labour Party Conference in October, where voting will take place on the programme presented. Following this, once the official timeline for the next General Election has been called, Labour will hold a Clause V meeting to decide which policies make it to the manifesto.

Further detail of this process can be seen in WA’s Guide to Engaging with the Labour Party:

Following months of accusations levied against Keir Starmer that his leadership lacks ideological rigour – and whilst it remains far from a completed manifesto – the leaked documents give us an idea of what the policy direction for the UK could look like under his stewardship. Labour have signalled that their next manifesto will ‘under-promise and over-deliver’.

As such, with vital discussions and developments in the policy-making process still to take place in the coming months, NEC members will be fighting for space on what Labour will choose to fight the next election on.

Businesses should follow the next few months of the policy development process closely in anticipation for party conference – a key milestone in the policy-making process, with the shadow cabinet told to present a credible alternative plan for government at the gathering.

Reaction from those involved at the ground level of Labour policy towards the leaked document has been generally positive, but there are still disagreements in the direction of some critical areas.

Below WA’s sector specialists have set out what the initial policy handbook means for each key policy area:

Energy

Energy is set to take a leading role in Labour’s offering at the next General Election, with the Policy Forum recommending ambitious targets on energy infrastructure, building to the ultimate goal of delivering clean electricity by 2030.

Specific targets include doubling onshore wind capacity, quadrupling offshore, and tripling that of solar. Given these technologies currently have around 14GW of installed capacity each, hitting these targets would involve commissioning over 20GW of wind and solar every year from 2024 to 2030, no mean feat, given the current speed of planning and Grid approvals.

In addition to renewables, there is strong support for nuclear and hydrogen, and a recognition that the likes of floating offshore wind, CCS and marine energy will require Government assistance in their developments.

As for the other side, it’s clear the forum doesn’t want to see any expansion in the use of fossil fuels, pushing for no more oil and gas licenses, maintaining the ban on fracking, and avoiding using coal, and no mention of biomass.

There is no clear message on decarbonising tougher sectors, such as energy-intensive industries or aviation, meaning there is still opportunity to influence in these areas.

Financial Services

The party has shown significant commitment to partnering with the financial services sector and protecting the UK’s reputation as a global financial leader. Central to this is its headline economic ambition to secure the highest growth in the G7, delivered through the Green Prosperity Plan and driven by inward investment aligned to the Paris-agreement targets.

They have also outlined plans to introduce long-term policies relating to consumer protection in emerging markets, including in the buy-now-pay-later sector which has been a bedrock issue for the party whilst in Opposition. Businesses should anticipate a review of regulatory barriers and potential risks.

Health & Life Sciences

Nothing in the proposals will come as a surprise for those following Labour’s core offering during the Starmer and Streeting administration. Detail is light and centred primarily around the issues that currently drive the debate in health: tackling the workforce crisis and cutting waiting lists.

Notably absent from the proposals is a focus on reducing health inequalities, despite both the Conservatives and numerous think tanks sympathetic to Labour correctly identifying it as one of the health challenges holding back growth across areas of the country. Critically for Labour, these inequalities are often most prevalent in areas they will need to win at the next General Election. Streeting is expected to set out Labour’s position on this in due course.

A strict focus on addressing only the major systemic health challenges is typical for a party in opposition, but Labour will at some point need to set out its plan to address the knottier challenges that require targeted action: cancer; obesity; the ageing population; and cardiovascular disease to name a few. This next phase of the manifesto development will look to examine these areas in more detail, and businesses should be alert and on-hand to offer potential solutions in these spaces.

Addressing these critical challenges will not be quick, and Labour’s success in delivering against its objectives will be measured in years, not months. As the manifesto develops, Labour must look to balance its top-level agenda for reform against ‘oven-ready’ wins early into their potential Governance to ensure they are seen to be progressing against their own objectives in the minds of an electorate increasingly losing faith in the health service.

Transport

As anticipated, Labour’s flagship transport policy is the renationalisation of rail. Labour intend to bring the railways back into public ownership as contracts with existing operators expire. The scale of ambition for rail does not stop there, with the document setting out intentions to deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail and High Speed 2 in full. This will be underpinned by a long-term strategy for rail that’s consistent with Labour’s fiscal panning and gives communities more of a say on their local rail services.

With GB Railways still in formative stages ahead of a potential Transport Bill in the King’s Speech and no guarantee of it completing its parliamentary stages before a general elations, there remains significant uncertainty and a range of potential outcomes for the rail sector. For commercial interests in the sector now is the time to carefully set out a vision for how they’d align with Labour’s agenda and rebuild trust in the network.

Devolved governments and local authorities can also expect more responsibility over what Labour calls “the broken bus system”. Communities will be granted powers to franchise local bus services, lifting the ban on municipal bus ownership. With franchising still in its infancy in the northern metro areas, the next few years will be essential to assess how local control is working and define a model that will work in rural, semi-rural and other non-metro areas.

In addition to public transport, Labour are also seeking to turbocharge the just transition to more affordable EVs by helping households to manage the higher upfront cost of vehicles. To ensure EV infrastructure is able to keep up pace, Labour are planning a programme of electrification, including accelerating the rollout of charging points in left behind areas. A package of incentives may well be needed to help address an emerging challenge around access inequality.

Childcare, Education & Skills

Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson is determined to ensure that education is at the heart of Labour’s programme for Government, as it was when the party last came to power in 1997.

Labour recognise that one of the most significant challenges facing the country today is the need to rebuild the economy and ensure that workers have the right skills required to support the jobs of the future. This cuts across different departments and policy areas, but remains a core ambition of the Shadow Education Team, who want to deliver a “landmark shift in skills provision”.

Where Labour differ from the Government in this regard, they have linked future skills needs closely to their ambitions for the green agenda, they want to devolve adult education and skills budgets to metro mayors and combined authorities, and they want to give businesses more flexibility to use skills funding to meet specific employer needs.

Another key priority of Labour’s is to reform childcare, right from the end of parental leave to the end of primary school. These plans are still light on detail – perhaps because of the need to work around the announcements made by the Government in March’s Budget, and perhaps because of the funding implications required to meet their ambitions for a so-called ‘childcare revolution’.

Looking ahead, Keir Starmer is set to launch his opportunities mission ahead of the summer recess in July – we look forward to seeing the detail then.

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