Why it’s time to take Labour seriously again

By Dan Julian, Account Executive, Cicero/AMO

The Labour Party suffered its worst election defeat since 1935 last December. Throughout the start of 2020 it was engaged in more navel-gazing as it conducted the fourth leadership election since it lost power just over a decade ago. When the year began, few people thought there would be much point in engaging with the Party’s frontbench for most of this Parliament. Not only did Boris Johnson have an 80-seat majority in the House of Commons but Labour was so far behind in both votes and seats that the prospect of returning to office in 2024 seemed far-fetched. 

Now, less than a year since the General Election, the situation has changed yet again. With Labour back to level pegging in the polls, and the Party’s new Leader, Sir Keir Starmer, now polling ahead of Boris Johnson on who would make the best Prime Minister, it is time to start taking Labour seriously again. 

Engage in policy making now 

While the Starmer Leadership may be in its early days, the direction of travel is clear. This is a tight knit group, and at its heart are key Starmer allies who not only share his political outlook but also his belief that Labour’s policy platform at the last election was too broad and did not resonate enough with the public. For this reason, Starmer is yet to set out any policies beyond what he would do differently in the here and now. For some, the lack of clarity on policy is confusing but for business, this presents an opportunity. How can the policies you’re working on help change the perception of the Labour Party and improve its brand? COVID-19 has led to a reset of policy making with policies being created that we’ve never seen before. As precedents are set across the political landscape, the time for influence is now but how are you making the most of it?

Business is back 

You may have seen that Shadow Cabinet Ministers and junior frontbenchers have been on a charm offensive to begin wooing business and to regain political and economic credibility with voters. The role of the Shadow Treasury team is interesting here. While Anneliese Dodds may be new to the Shadow Cabinet, she is serious about engagement and including a diversity of views as she considers her policy focus. Together with her deputy Bridget Phillipson, her main task is to rebuild the economic credibility lost by Labour in the wake of the financial crisis. Any policy announcement to come out of the Shadow HMT team will be carefully calibrated and properly costed – the time of policy announcements made on the fly is very much over. 

Most other engagement is, so far, conducted by the Shadow Ministers, who are the day-to-day policy leads. By beginning to create links early on you are more likely to affect policy development from the ground up, as Shadow Secretaries of State won’t have as much oversight of individual policy areas.  

Cards close to chest 

Fundamentally, the Labour Party is still recovering from a historic defeat, and the new Leadership recognises the need to engage with business to mend bridges and repair relations if it is to present itself as once again worthy of the voters’ trust.

The ten policy pledges Starmer made when he was running for Leader earlier this year should be taken seriously. Only by engaging early and often can the trajectory be meaningfully altered.  

That’s why at Cicero/AMO we’ve compiled a regularly-updated grid of the key political advisers guiding Keir Starmer and the Labour Shadow Cabinet and its approach to policy development. 

The guide is available to Cicero clients currently however, if you are interested in receiving this document, please do get in touch.

Get in Touch

Dan Julian

Account Executive