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Lodestone General Election Note - Campaign Week 1

May 31st 2024

Ruthless Inefficiency – a note from our Co-Founder and Chairman, David Wild

Seasoned Labour grandees will be toasting the jurors in New York who yesterday found Trump guilty because the story of Labour’s handling of late candidate impositions - exemplified by the Diane Abbott row - was starting to get out of hand. The media, already bored by the seemingly inevitable Labour jog to election victory, had seized on the issue as a convenient vehicle for testing Labour’s ability to cope with unforeseen challenge.

This challenge was fast widening and broadening into a full examination of the way Keir Starmer was running the Labour Party - with what can only be characterised as ruthless inefficiency.

Ruthless in the way that the Party was dealing with any potential problem MPs, but also in the way that so many safe seats were being made vacant and filled - in very short order - by central party command, rather than involving the local Labour people at all. This always causes griping but is usually capped by the small number of examples and quiet handling. A lot of the beneficiaries of this ruthlessness are long term Starmer allies and supporters, plus high calibre individuals who will add depth and authority to the Parliamentary Labour Party.

And inefficiency in the way that Labour’s election grid was knocked completely off course this week, and in the wasted time and energy in spent dealing with the completely avoidable kerfuffle.

The sheer scale and controversial targets of this ruthlessness had stirred up a very unwelcome brew of identity politics, righteous indignation and media attention driven by the natural tendency of political journalists to overexcitement.

This is an interesting moment in the emotional flow of the election campaign, but one that will be forgotten in the glow of the inevitable Labour victory. Or maybe not. Is this the start of the great slide of Labour’s hopes of a crushing big win or just unwelcome turbulence?


In the news

In the first full week of the General Election campaign, the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak has made a series of attempts to remobilise the Conservative base of older voters, who have thus far looked set to switch to Labour or Reform in the polls. This began on Sunday, with the news that the Conservatives would make all 18-year-olds take part in some form of national service – either through the military or a national volunteering scheme once a month. The scheme will cost £2.5bn a year and would be funded by cash previously used for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and cracking down on tax avoidance and evasion.

On Monday, Sunak also pledged to raise the tax-free pension allowance via a "Triple Lock Plus" – meaning the personal allowance for pensioners would increase at least 2.5% or in line with the highest of earnings or inflation. Through a combination of policies which conjure up national pride and nostalgia for a post-war Britain, as well as increased financial solidity, Sunak’s attempts to keep the grey vote on side have been clearer than ever so far.

This week, Sunak has also promised that if re-elected, he would scrap the ‘worst performing’ university degrees that have high dropout rates and “poor” job prospects – a policy he suggested would save £910m by 2030. This would in turn, be able to fund 100,000 more apprenticeships annually, according to the Party.

On the Labour side, announcements have, as yet, been less clearly defined. Much has been made of Starmer’s ‘Ming Vase’ strategy’ to avoid any risks of sudden drops in the polls. In a speech this week, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves promised that “stability is change” and committed to no new VAT, national insurance or income tax rises. This strategy has thus far served Labour well with 120 business leaders publicly backing the party earlier this week. However, it comes with risk. If they get in to power, Starmer and Reeves will be faced with a dilemma – to achieve reform do they risk disappointing voters and cut public services or do they turn to tax rises?

On Wednesday, Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting pledged to clear the backlog of patients waiting more than 18 weeks for an appointment in the NHS. Speaking this week, he promised that he would deliver “40,000 more appointments every week” through extra “evening and weekend clinics", doubling the number of scanners, using increased private sector capacity and ensuring "the biggest expansion of NHS staff in history”. The Party says the plan will cost £1.3bn and will be paid for by clamping down on tax dodgers and closing non-dom tax loopholes.

Today, Keir Starmer is north of the Border to officially launch his plans for GB Energy – a publicly owned renewable energy company headquartered in Scotland. The initiative – which has been endorsed by former Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government, Patrick Vallance - would not generate energy itself but would invest public money in projects like offshore wind farms and solar panels - which the party says would help secure domestic supplies and cut bills for consumers. Speaking this morning, the Labour Leader assured voters that it would “get working within months” should his party win the Election. The launch has made energy a clear dividing line in politics with the SNP and Conservatives both criticising the Labour’s plans to veto any new oil and gas licences. Reassuring Scottish voters about the transition away from oil and gas, Starmer stated that it will still "will be part of the mix for decades to come".

Polling update

It appears that the national polls could be tightening. JL Partners this week revealed that Labour only has a 12-point lead over the Tories as Sunak’s efforts to ‘mobilise the base’ of over 65s voters appears to be working. Despite this, BritainElects’s national aggregated tracker suggests the state of the polls has remained largely unmoved since last Wednesday with Labour remaining on 45% compared to the Conservative on 23.3%. 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.

Scores on the Doors: Insights from the Campaign Trail

Members of the Lodestone team have been travelling with the Shadow Cabinet on the campaign trail this week, supporting on set-piece campaign visits up and down the country. Their views and insider insights into how the campaign Is going are captured below:

  • Eyes on the Prize: “Keir is on great form on the campaign trail – he’s high on energy and confidence, taking great pleasure in being able to dedicate time to campaigning, meeting the public, and communicating Labour’s vision. Avoiding complacency remains the No1 message to campaign staff as Starmer begins to set his eyes on No10.”
  • Rallying Reeves: “The Shadow Chancellor compliments the Labour Leader’s campaign persona perfectly – the double-act integrate well, and Reeves doesn’t shy away from juggling the roles of seasoned campaign connoisseur, as well as economic expert.”

Dizzying Demand: “Compared to the 2019 campaign, demand for visits from the Labour leadership is sky high. The campaign team at Labour HQ are inundated with requests from business for their site to make the tour list, with scores of former Tory voters and campaigners

And the Rest?

  • Davey’s Days Out: Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Ed Davey has been pictured on the campaign pulling the same facial expression in various interesting predicaments.
  • On the Beach: Conservative MP for Wycombe, Steve Baker revealed this week that he would be campaigning from Greece whilst on holiday. The Northern Ireland Minister has been accused of giving up after he jetted off to Vasiliki stating that “The Prime Minister told everyone we could go on holiday and then called a snap election. So, I’ve chosen to do my campaign work in Greece”. He currently has a 4214 majority, and the Lodestone Election Hub predicts that Labour’s Emma Reynolds will win with 51% of the vote.