As we break for Easter, many businesses will be reflecting on the first quarter of 2023, what’s gone right, what’s gone wrong, what can we do better? You can see a quick reflection on the Downtown in Business Q1 here.
Rishi Sunak, Keir Starmer and their respective teams will be doing the same. Only a year out from the next General Election, the political parties have to be razor focussed on their activity and communication from now until polling day.
So, what does the political landscape currently look like?
Well, whatever your politics, I think it is fair to say that it feels like the grown up’s are back in charge again. After the daily dramas of the Johnson regime, and the shambles of the short-term Truss administration, Sunak has brought back professionalism and credibility to the role of prime minister. Alongside his chancellor Jeremy Hunt, he has at least stabilised the country’s economic position and, calmed the markets. He also appears to have put the disruptive Conservative force that is the European Research Group (ERG) back in its box, squashing the predicted rebellion against his Windsor Agreement EU deal to a tiny rump of backbench MPs which, embarrassingly for them, included Johnson and Truss.
The latest polls have not moved sufficiently enough for the Conservatives to believe that this welcome shift from chaos to calm is paying dividends with the electorate though. The most recently published ‘poll of polls’ shows the Tories on 28% and Labour on 46%. However, more promisingly for the Conservatives is that Sunak consistently polls ahead of Starmer when people are asked who they prefer as prime minister.
But, polls are but a snapshot of a fraction of our population, and so all political eyes are on the forthcoming local council election next month. Real votes, that will decide who is running Town Halls up and down the country will offer a far more accurate measure of how a General Election might turn out in 2024.
For what it’s worth, despite Tory turmoil, the cost-of-living-crisis, higher interest rates, buyers remorse from many Brexiters, and industrial unrest, I think there is still all to play for.
Labour has a huge mountain to climb from the Jeremy Corbyn inflicted drubbing it took in 2019. No opposition leader has enjoyed victory if they have lower personal ratings than the sitting PM, as Starmer does now. And the Tories will try and move the agenda from the issues where they usually want to fight an election – the economy, law and order, and trust, to Culture Wars.
That won’t work for them with everyone. But it will probably work with enough. Making a hung parliament the most likely outcome after a General Election next year.