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

Posts Tagged ‘The Labour Party’

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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How does Labour deliver its Clean Energy Mission?

With commitments to establish a ‘publicly owned energy company’, rewire Britain’s electricity grid and expand renewable generation, the Labour Party’s 2024 manifesto outlines an ambitious plan to make the UK a “clean energy superpower”. Ahead of polling day, WA hosted leading figures from across the energy sector for a discussion on how a Labour government would look to achieve its goal of decarbonising the UK’s energy supply.

Contributors including Paul McNamee, Director of the Labour Climate and Environment Forum, Sue Ferns, Senior Deputy General Secretary of the trade union Prospect and Chris Hayes, Chief Economist at Common Wealth discussed how Labour can practically deliver its ‘clean energy mission’.

Here is what we learnt about the direction of energy policy under a possible Labour Government:

1. Quick decisions need to be made

The incoming Energy Secretary will face a packed inbox of ‘legacy’ issues carried over from the last government. Many major policy decisions need to be made by the end of the year, some this summer. These include the sixth allocation round of the contracts for difference (CfD) scheme, the future of Sizewell C, SMR funding and CCUS deployment.

Potential Energy Secretary Ed Miliband is expected to make clear, positive decisions in these areas to back the technologies required for the UK to achieve net zero. Labour and Miliband will look to portray these decisions as totemic, representing how the party is making the bold choices necessary to deliver their green prosperity plan.

Miliband, who will likely be one of the few new Secretaries of State with previous experience of Government, would also be able to use his prior learned experience and institutional knowledge to immediately drive forward Labour’s energy plans. This would be in contrast with other Secretaries of State who would need time to get to grips with the machinery of Government.

Planning reforms to get more renewable generation in development are also likely to be a priority across the first 100-days of a Labour administration. These reforms would entail regulatory overhaul as well as bolstering planning departments who have experienced a reduction in workforce and investment over the past 14 years.

2. Informed backbenchers with an interest in energy policy

The next parliament will perhaps be the most engaged and informed parliaments on energy policy that we have seen in recent years. Many Labour PPCs contesting swing seats including Melanie Onn (former MP for Great Grimsby and previously Deputy Chief Executive of trade body RenewableUK), Mary Creagh (ex-MP for Wakefield and sustainability advisor) and Polly Billington (founder of UK100) will be hoping to enter parliament directly from careers focused on energy and climate issues.

If the best-case scenarios for the Labour Party are correct and the Conservatives suffer what would effectively be a wipeout across the country, Labour PCCs contesting traditionally safe Conservative seats could find themselves on the Labour benches following July 4th. Two such candidates with energy backgrounds are Luke Murphy in Basingstoke and Ryan Jude in Tatton. Murphy is on leave from his post as Head of the Fair Transition Unit at the think tank IPPR while Jude is a Programme Director at the Green Finance Institute.

These MPs with a nuanced understanding of how the energy sector really works, of which there will be many, will be important in shaping policy and holding to account frontbench’s energy priorities.

There is a risk however, that if a Labour ‘supermajority’ transpires, the Labour benches could have ta higher share of inhabitants representing rural areas – in places like East Anglia – where residents are typically more sceptical on the issue of hosting energy infrastructure. This creates the possibility of rising tensions between the leadership’s ambition on energy, and backbench MPs who will be wanting to be seen to be representing their local interests.

3. Managing expectations around GB Energy

While there is clearly an optimism within Labour that the party’s energy policy package will get the UK well on the road to net zero by 2050, there are many areas in which important details and plans are missing. For instance, questions remain over the much-touted GB Energy and how it fits into the existing energy system and infrastructure.

Many voters have a misunderstanding about GB Energy’s role, not helped by the lack of detail early on its policy formation. Polling and focus groups suggest that some voters believe that it will be a consumer facing energy retail company, rather than an energy developer. This misunderstanding of a flagship policy could lead to trouble for Labour, and the energy industry as a whole, if voters do not feel any benefit by the next election. A Labour government will have an important job to do early in its first term to manage expectations, so that by the time of the next election it can show that GB Energy has delivered.

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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

→ Click to download


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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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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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Veteran Labour Party adviser Jennifer Gerber joins WA

We are delighted to welcome Jennifer Gerber as a Senior Political Adviser, bringing more than 20 years of experience at the heart of Labour governments, election campaigns, and policy development. 

During the last Labour government, Jen was a special adviser across three high-profile cabinet portfolios, providing strategic advice to Ministers at HM Treasury, the Department of Health, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Across all three departments, Gerber was the principal adviser to Andy Burnham (now the Mayor of Greater Manchester).  

In recent years she has provided strategic political, policy and media counsel, working on some of the highest profile issues in Britain – including advising top NHS Trusts during Covid 19 and leading the Refugee Council’s response to the government’s immigration bill and ‘Rwanda flights’ policy. 

In addition, she headed the parliamentary campaign group Labour Friends of Israel for more than a decade, and also previously led the prominent centre-left think tank, Progress (now Progressive Britain). 

Jen has worked at Labour HQ on a number of successful Labour general election campaigns, and in the party’s media and business relations teams. 

At WA, Jen will advise clients on political and media engagement strategies, working across our financial and professional services, health, investor relations, energy, transport, and education teams. 

Commenting on her appointment, Jennifer Gerber, Senior Political Adviser, WA, said: 

“From helping public transport operators communicate the journey to net zero, driving access to innovative medicines, or campaigning to secure access to cash for communities across the UK, WA understand how joined-up political and media engagement can drive policy change on issues that are crucial for society and business. 

“I’m delighted to be joining the team and look forward to bringing my political and campaigning experience to bear across WA.” 

 Dominic Church, Managing Director, WA, added: 

“There are few people who match Jennifer’s understanding of the Labour party at every level – from the frontlines of an election campaign, and managing the relationship with the business community, to operating at the highest levels of government; and her network across the Party, from the Leader’s office and Metro Mayors, to new PPCs and the key policy thinkers that will shape the next Parliament. 

“Her expertise will be invaluable as clients seek to understand how a Labour government would work in practice, and I’m delighted that she’s chosen to join WA.” 

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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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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

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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 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.


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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