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Lodestone Communications - General Election Note

June 28th 2024

One last heave...

The final full week of election campaigning is again remarkable for the lack of any real jeopardy to the seemingly inevitable Labour victory. Rishi just can’t seem to move the dial. Starmer is now seemingly possessed with that great quality in a General, good luck. For those with a karmic bent, the worry now is that he will have used up all his luck before he becomes Prime Minister. The betting scandal - or Gamblegate as it will inevitably become known – has now run the clock down even further on Sunak’s time in office. Labour strategists are now fretting about the turnout and how that could limit the scale of victory, and maybe hamper the new regime with a lack of public legitimacy. This is, in itself, a remarkable moment in Labour electoral history and shows how close to power they now feel they are.

Political betting in the Westminster village is completely endemic and not in any way unusual. Of course, it might look bad if someone gets a real edge on the bookies but that surely is in the nature of the game the bookies themselves play? This is another one of those scandals that can flash across the media and consume seemingly random individuals but not others. There will be plenty of political punters hoping that this storm will pass on quickly like the end of a heatwave when the lightning flashes, but hopefully striking somewhere else.


In the News

Both Party leaders hit the ground running this week, the last full week of campaigning before Britain heads to the polls on July 4th. While Sir Keir Starmer started his week in the East Midlands, Rishi Sunak was up in Scotland to launch the Scottish Conservatives Manifesto. Sunak appealed to Scottish voters tired of the independence ‘issue’, claiming a vote for the Conservatives was the only way to ensure that the SNP “lose big”. Both leaders finished the day back in London where they faced questions from readers of the Sun. The Prime Minister came under pressure about the growing gambling scandal embroiling his party while the Leader of the Opposition was keen to highlight the change he has brought about to the Labour party since the 2019 election.

Elsewhere on Monday, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) delivered their verdict of the party manifestos, which can probably be described as lukewarm at best. Paul Johnson, Director of the IFS, accused both of the largest parties of partaking in a “conspiracy of silence” by failing to acknowledge some of the most important issues facing Britain by refusing to commit to borrowing. He continued by expressing concern over the tax rises proposed by both parties, claiming that the extra revenue would not raise enough money to avoid further cuts to public services. Starmer hit back at these criticisms by telling journalists he refused to accept the forecasts that the economy can’t be better than it is currently.

On Tuesday, the Conservatives finally decided to withdraw their support for the two candidates embroiled in the insider trading betting scandal citing ‘ongoing internal enquiries’. It came just 14 hours after Sunak had doubled down on his decision not to suspend the candidates, arguing that “The right thing to do is to get to the bottom of this and investigate this properly”. This sudden U turn came as music to the ears of those at Labour HQ, with Shadow Cabinet Minister Jonathan Ashworth claiming this was just another example of Sunak’s “staggeringly weak leadership”. However, Labour’s luck was short lived as later that day, they were forced to suspend a member of their own party under similar circumstances, with the news that the Gambling Commission was investigating the issue. They couldn’t let the issue go by without a subtle dig at Sunak though, with a Labour Party spokeswoman saying: “With Keir Starmer as leader, the Labour party upholds the highest standards for our parliamentary candidates, as the public rightly expects from any party hoping to serve, which is why we have acted immediately in this case.”

As the week went on, it only got worse for the Conservatives, as it was revealed the former Scottish Secretary Alister Jack had also placed bets on the election date. However, he insisted he is not one of the alleged 15 Conservative candidates and officials under investigation by the Gambling Commission over the scandal. The

conversation began to turn to whether politicians have ever bet on anything at all, with Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey being dragged into the debate and forced to admit he has bet on two elections in the past. Staggeringly, Minister of State at the Department for Business and Trade and close ally of Rishi Sunak Kevin Hollinrake MP revealed proudly that he had bet on the Conservatives winning a majority at this election.

In the final debate of the campaign on the BBC on Wednesday night, both party leaders were asked about the growing issue of integrity in politics, reflected in the political gambling scandal. Sunak re-stated his fury at the allegations and highlighted the internal action after an independent inquiry. Starmer claimed he wants to "reset politics" if he becomes PM and return politics to the principle of public service. For the rest of the debate, Sunak came out fighting in his last-ditch attempt to shift the polls, attacking Starmer on migration, tax and women’s rights. Starmer hit back at Sunak for being ‘out of touch’ and contributing to 14 years of ‘Tory chaos’. Opinion on who ‘won’ the debate is mixed, not that it matters all that much, given the current state of the polls.

Also, this week, Labour suspended a member after he was arrested as part of the investigation into the Westminster ‘honeytrap’ scandal. The Metropolitan Police said a man in his mid-20s was arrested in Islington on suspicion of harassment and offences under the Online Safety Act. The Labour Party immediately administratively suspended the individual’s membership but declined to comment citing an ongoing police investigation.

Manifesto Key Pledges

Please click here for Lodestone analysis of the party manifesto announcements and the potential effects they could have on various sectors in the UK

Scores on the doors: insights from the campaign trail

Word on the Streeting: Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting was spotted at Lodestone’s local boozer this week.

Tory party chairman Richard Holden made quite the gaff this week when he accidentally mailed out leaflets to the wrong constituency, asking people to vote for him in places where he isn’t even on the ballot paper! Whether this will help the Conservative party candidate in that constituency or not remains to be seen.

Past your sell by date: Whilst campaigning north of the border, a Lodestone team member came across the SNP delivering literature in Cowdenbeath and Kirkcaldy which was over two years out of date.

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

Polling Update

With the national polls not moving drastically, this week more nuanced findings on the Shadow Cabinet themselves has been released – with JL Partners asking participants of a recent poll their thoughts on 10 specific members of Starmer’s 31-strong team, Ed Miliband topped both the popularity and recognition tables, with 18% of all respondents and 31% of current Labour voters saying they felt positively about the Shadow Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero. A total of 83% of all respondents had heard of the former leader meanwhile, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper ranked second on both counts as well, with 16% of all respondents saying they felt positively about her. Meanwhile, at the other end of the list, only 5% of respondents said they felt positively about Shadow Minister without portfolio Nick Thomas-Symonds. The low numbers in the poll are perhaps indicative of the mountain Starmer’s team will have to climb to win over the public – rather than just appealing to the anti-Tory voter base.

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.