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Lodestone Communications – General Election Note

June 21st 2024

The Devil is in the Detail

It’s fair to say that the Nation has entered a collective period of Election Fatigue. Figures this week show that public engagement with news (in all forms) is at an all-time low, data on voter registration just 24 hours ahead of thedeadline to register suggested that over 4 million young people were missing from the register, and the viewing figures for the latest round of debates are far from inspiring.

Six weeks is an odd time period – when you were still at school, the six weeks of freedom afforded to you in the Summer flashed by in what seemed like only a day. Six weeks of a General Election campaign can feel more like a life sentence.

Much has been offered in the way of potential reasoning behind Sunak’s decision for a July Election – perhaps to free him up in time to get his kids a spot at their preferred school in the US for the start of the Fall Term, or perhaps just to make those around him a quick buck via dubious trips to the bookies. But one thing is certain, Election Fatigue – inevitable in any campaign but emphasised now by general voter apathy – is a rare threat to Labour in what has otherwise been a pretty smooth campaign.

There are some in Labour HQ who are worried about turnout, worried that Election Fatigue will have limited voter registration ahead of this week’s deadline, and worried too that the line being peddled by the smaller opposition parties – that Labour will win the Election either way so you may as well vote for us – is gaining cut through on the doorstep.


And meanwhile, for those of us still trying our best to remain engrossed, this week has been about detail. The manifestos are out, and the real scrutiny has begun. For Labour, this represents the first real test for the Shadow Cabinet in some time. This week saw the Shadow Chancellor, the Deputy Leader of the Party, and the Shadow Health Secretary grilled on their claims of NHS transformation and the reality of the limited funding earmarked for healthcare in the Manifesto.

Reform too have had their ‘contract’ torn apart by a string of think tanks and economic experts, whilst the Green’s have faced fierce criticism over the policies on just about everything, from taxation to security.

We are now less than two weeks out. For Labour, the next 13 days are all about treading water, not messing up, and getting the vote out. For the Tories, it’s about damage limitation and even some succession planning – focussing campaign efforts on the few remaining safe-ish Conservative seats and not getting too distracted by premature leadership campaigning (more on this in the below note). And for just about everyone else, it’s all about capitalising – where possible – on voter apathy and presenting themselves as a ‘counterweight to a huge and inevitable Labour majority in the Commons'.

But between the boring performances of the Home Nations in the football, yet another Andy Murray injury, and Love Island heating up, there are plenty more distractions for the Electorate between now and polling day.

This week, Lodestone’s Kate Troiano, a Boston native, shared her insights on the parallels between the UK General Election campaign and the political discourse we’ve become accustomed to seeing in the US. You can read it here – I Think I’ve Seen This Film Before… And I Didn’t Like The Ending

Dates for the Diary

Tuesday 25 June - "General Election 2024: Policy, Polls and Press” with Martha Dalton, Co-Founder and ManagingDirector of Lodestone, Lord Watson, former Labour Deputy Leader and Labour Minister, Damian Lyons-Lowe, CEO of Survation, and Sonia Sodha, Chief Writer at the Observer - Lodestone Communications, 10:00-11:00. Register here.

In the News

This week, the Prime Minister has tried again to mobilise the Tory base, campaigning in what would traditionally be seen as the True-Blue heartlands. On Wednesday, alongside Foreign Secretary, Lord Cameron, Sunak appeared in Devon to highlight to rural and fishing voters that the Conservatives would enshrine a food security target in law and increase the farming budget by £1bn. This move is likely a reflection of the Conservative campaign taking a defensive turn – where Sunak and Cameron pitched up in West Devon and Torridge is not usually fertile political ground during elections, and Conservative incumbent Sir Geoffrey Cox has a majority of 25,000. Throughout the campaign, Sunak has visited seats with an average 11,800 Conservative majority and in the last week this shot up to 14,300 – statistics indicative of his damage limitation approach.

Monday saw Reform UK launch their ‘Contract’ with voters in Labour heartland Merthyr Tydfil. In his speech, Nigel Farage made it clear that his party is not campaigning to form the next Government but rather, sees this election as a stepping stone to 2029. Reform’s decision to launch a ‘Contract’, rather than a traditional manifesto is emblematic ofthis particular position - as Farage promised the contents of the contract were things the Party would fight for in opposition, rather than policy proposals they would enact if elected. Perhaps this explains the lack of robust costing behind the document’s extensive public spending cuts, tax cuts and spending increases on areas such as defence. The IFS and other financial institutions have reacted sceptically, claiming that the cuts and spending in the manifesto “do not add up”.

On Thursday meanwhile, both Labour and the Conservatives fleshed out their plans for housing at the Election. Angela Rayner confirmed that the Labour Party would immediately ban no-fault evictions and require all landlords to bring rental homes up to Energy Performance Certificate Rating C by 2030. The Deputy Labour Leader also confirmed her desire to see ‘Awaabs Law’ extended to the private rented sector meaning landlords would have to adhere to strict time limits to address dangerous hazards such as damp and mould in their properties. The Tories confirmed that they would permanently waive stamp duty tax for first-time buyers of properties costing up to £425,000.

This week has also been one of big business for the Labour Party. On Monday, Rachel Reeves sought to reassure businesses about life under a Labour Government in a meeting with the British Infrastructure Council. The meeting highlights Labour’s seriousness about working with businesses as Reeves sought to pull focus to Labour’s plan forgrowth and away from the Conservative’s insistence that the Party would simply increase taxes. In an interview with the Financial Times, Reeves also made clear that a Labour Government plans to reset Britain’s global image, beginning with a more collaborative approach when dealing with the EU. She blamed the Leave vote on the issue of Immigration and argued that most people would be happy with closer regulatory alignment with the EU in most industries.

Continuing the trend of big business support for the Labour Party, entrepreneur John Caudwell told the BBC that he planned to vote Labour, endorsing the Party and its leader. The Phones4u founder and previous Conservative Party donor told the BBC that Sir Kier Starmer “just hits the spot with a lot of issues for me” and that the party are “absolutely the very best for Britain going forward”. Meanwhile, Dragon’s Den star and another former Tory donor, Theo Paphitis also endorsed Starmer this week suggesting the Conservatives had “forgotten” about growing the economy. With the Conservatives traditionally seen as the Party of big business, this shift in landscape is evidence of the changing tides as businesses prepare for a Labour Government.

Elsewhere, inflation fell below 2% for the first time in nearly 3 years, according to the Office for National Statistics. Despite this, the Bank of England’s MPC voted to maintain the current rate of interest.

Polling Update

Labour are on course for a 200 seat majority, amounting to the second largest majority since the Second World War, according to a new YouGov projection. The Poll, released on Wednesday in partnership with Sky News suggests that the Party will get 425 seats, compared to just 108 for the Tories and a remarkably high 67 for the Liberal Democrats.Notable Conservative casualties would include the Chancellor, Defence Secretary, and the Leader of the Commons.

The other major poll released this week by Savanta and Electoral Calculus for The Telegraph made even grimmer viewing for the Conservatives, and Rishi Sunak specifically. The study suggested that Sunak himself could lose his Richmond and Northallerton seat with Labour overturning a 27,000 majority. Whilst the poll put Starmer’s party on a whopping 516 seats and the Conservatives on 53, a hefty pinch of salt is of course needed here as many of these seats – including Sunak’s - were deemed “too close to call” for a definitive prediction.

Lodestone’s General Election Hub predicts a 17-point lead for Labour, with them gaining 215 seats from the Conservatives. It is continually updated with key candidate announcements and polling insights.

Parliamentary Candidate Roundup

The deadline for selecting parliamentary candidates was Friday 7th June. A breakdown of how many candidates were selected by each party can be found below. In total, 4,515 candidates were nominated, more than in any previous UK General Election.

Conservatives: 635

Labour: 631

Liberal Democrat: 630

Reform UK: 609

This week saw the first major party sack one of its candidates over previous comments since the passing of the selection deadline on 7th June. On Tuesday, the Labour Party officially suspended its candidate in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East – Andy Brown - following reports he had shared "pro-Russian" posts online. Brown allegedly shared a link in 2018 to an article on the state-run RT website (formerly Russia Today) that suggested the novichok nerve agent used to poison Sergei and Yulia Skripal did not come from Russia. Despite the embarrassing suspension – something which probably indicates the lack of widespread and thorough vetting within the Party – the seat was never a Labour target with the Conservatives and SNP going head-to-head for the North Sea oil dependent constituency.

Scores on the Doors: Insights from the Campaign Trail

▪ Let the Leadership Challenges Commence: This week, Tory candidate for Tonbridge, Tom Tugendhat announced that should he win his seat at the upcoming Election, he would likely stand to be Conservative Party Leader. Tugendhat is known among parliamentary staffers as ‘Tommy no tab’ for his reputation for asking for cigarettes on the House of Commons terrace.

▪ Bad Romance: A friend of someone at Lodestone recently went on a date with the Labour candidate in a pretty high-profile seat. Apparently, the date was going well until the unnamed candidate bought all their mates along halfway through. Here’s to hoping they have more commitment to their constituents, than they did for an evening of drinks.

To find out more predictions on who is set to win, or lose their seat, visit Lodestone’s General Election Hub