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They think it’s all over

With just over a week until the country votes, it’s worth reflecting on what – if anything – we’ve learned from the past few weeks of campaigning. The polls have hardly altered since the Prime Minister called the election, despite confident predictions that they would narrow as the campaign wore on. This forecast, a staple among commentators and not unvoiced even at Hawthorn, was based on the normally safe assumption that the electorate starts to pay attention and the parties run effective, smart campaigns. With regards to the former, it’s now clear the electorate made up its mind long ago and as for the latter, the campaigns have been notable only for the absurdities dogging the Conservatives and the timidity (or rigid discipline) of Labour’s efforts.

Future generations of politicians can look back on this period and conclude that you shouldn’t launch a campaign in the pouring rain; that Prime Ministers shouldn’t skip out early from international commemorations; that candidates shouldn’t bet on elections; that struggling campaigns shouldn’t hold photo calls in front of the Titanic; and that it’s tough to pose as tax-cutters-in-waiting having spent years hiking the levies to record highs. They might also conclude from close observations of the Labour campaign that, while saying as little as possible is a smart way for an opposition to get over the line against an unpopular incumbent, it surely stores up trouble for life in government.

Labour’s central (and winning) argument is that it’s time for change. From what to what? From chaos to… less chaos? To be fair, from Corbyn to not Corbyn is also a large part of Labour’s pitch. Nowhere has this transformation in attitude and approach been more apparent than in Labour’s new relationship with business. The party is now, we’re told, the natural home of wealth creators; the party of business. Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and others have been singing this tune for months, just slightly louder in recent weeks. The business community has largely welcomed the reassurance from a party almost certain to form the next government, but the lack of detail hangs over this courtship.

Addressing business leaders at a Bloomberg event earlier this week, Shadow Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds opened his pitch to the room by saying “I can think of no reason why the Conservatives deserve another five years in office.” Many in the room would have agreed with the sentiment, but he was remarkably light on detail when it came to questions about how exactly a Labour government would run the economy and manage relationships with employers. The spectre of tax rises does not disappear just because Labour says they have “no plans” to raise them.

His opponent in that debate was Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch, one of several Tory MPs already being talked about as a potential Leader of the Opposition. In last week’s Headliner we looked at what life might be like for the Conservatives post-defeat, and this week we can report that the latest internal Tory party polling shows fewer than 100 of their MPs being returned. While Labour can hit the ground running with their “missions” and “first steps” well trailed, the Conservatives will spend months trying to figure out who they are, who they’re for, who should lead them and, crucially, what should be done about Nigel Farage?

It seems certain that next week’s vote will bring down the curtain on 14 years of Conservative government, but there the certainty ends. What exactly will a Labour government look like? We’re about to find out.

If you’d like to speak to Hawthorn about our Political Advisory offering please email Mark Burr at

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