Labour have won the 2024 general election, with the party claiming 412 seats in a landslide election victory. In a crushing defeat for the Conservatives, they have won just 122 seats, with outgoing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak set to leave office a little over 18 months after coming to power.

Elsewhere, the Liberal Democrats enjoyed a resurgent night, claiming 71 seats, a substantial boost from their 2019 total of 11. There were mixed results for the smaller parties, with the SNP suffering at the hands of Labour’s Scottish revival to win just 10 seats, the Greens claiming 4 seats, and Reform 4 seats.

As Westminster takes a breath and considers the election results, Copper has laid out what comes next for the energy and infrastructure sectors: Copper Consultancy – General election – what happens next

Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer clashed for a final time on Wednesday in a fiery end to the televised election debates. Predictably, there were few surprises on policy at this late stage, with each leader sticking to the line we have seen them develop over the last few weeks. Whilst the Labour leader reiterated the need for ‘change’, the Prime Minister reminded viewers that his opponent often ‘changes his mind’.

 

Energy and Infrastructure

Sunak brought up a leaked audio of Labour’s Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Darren Jones, telling an audience in Bristol earlier this year that net zero would cost ‘hundreds of billions of pounds’. Starmer brushed the charge off, claiming that his fiscal plans were fully funded and that he would ‘get investors to come alongside that government money’. The debate was light on energy, infrastructure, and planning detail. Instead, the audience questioned the leaders’ personalities, ability to restore trust in politics, and the more polarising issues of welfare claimants, immigration, and transgender rights.

 

A change of tone

This allowed both leaders to pursue a more aggressive tone and rhetoric than we have been unaccustomed to in a campaign frequently described by media pundits as ‘boring’. The Prime Minister was first to ramp up the heat, telling Starmer directly: ‘you’re not being straight with people’ and ‘you have got no plan’. In a new move, Sunak urged voters not to ‘surrender’ Britain’s borders to a lax immigration policy or their taxes to unfunded benefits. The militaristic metaphor might work well to rouse morale among disillusioned Tory voters, but involved the tacit admission that defeat looms over the Conservative campaign.

On the whole, Starmer spoke directly to the audience rather than his opponent, referring to his record on public service and pointing to 14 years of Conservative failure. However, in a rare attack on his rival’s personal character, Starmer told the Prime Minister: ‘if you listened to people across the country, you might not be so out of touch’. Elsewhere in the debate, Starmer’s attempt to portray Sunak as ‘Liz Truss Mark II’ comments probably failed to land with an audience for whom the Conservative Leadership Election is already a distant memory.

 

Leadership

Perhaps the most memorable question came from Robert Blackstock. Calling Sunak ‘mediocre’ and accusing Starmer of being pulled by the strings of senior figures within the Labour Party, he asked: “Are you two really the best we’ve got to be the next prime minister of our great country?” Both leaders reached for no familiar lines about their background and plans for government – perhaps failing to display the personality and charisma which the question implied was lacking.

 

Europe

The leaders were also asked about their views on Britain’s relationship with the European Union, an issue which the two main parties have hitherto been notably quiet. Sunak brought the question back to his plans to help small businesses, whilst Starmer’s claim to be able to get a better deal than Boris ‘botched’ and Sunak has delivered was light on detail. Whilst Starmer called the Prime Minister a ‘defeatist’, he failed to answer Sunak’s question as to how a better deal could be negotiated. Likewise, on sending illegal immigrants back to Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan, Sunak asked: “Is he going to sit down with the Iranian Ayatollah? Are you going to try and do a deal with the Taliban? It’s completely nonsensical. You are taking people for fools.”

 

Women’s issues.

On the question as to whether the leaders would ‘put women’s interest first’, Starmer celebrated the women on his ‘team’, a word he reached for eight times in the course of championing the talents and backgrounds of Rachel Reeves, Angela Rayner, Bridget Phillipson and Yvette Cooper. Sunak, on the other hand, could list a range of policies on HRT, maternity care, free childcare, and his vision for an equal playing field in the workplace, linking each idea to the future he wants for his two daughters.

 

But who won?

The polls and pundits suggest that it was Sunak who won the debate, the Prime Minister’s feisty ‘gloves off’ approach winning him favour with an audience hungry to see personalities collide. But will it make any difference? YouGov tweeted this morning that attitudes towards the Tory party are at their most negative since tracking began in 2016. Sunak has a mountain to climb to win back the trust of the public, and he will need more than a few rhetorical cudgels to beat back Labour’s lead.

 

Keen to find out the latest? Check out our General Election Hub here

The General Election in Wales: a matter of record

The story of Wales in this General Election is not one of electoral kingmaking – after all, boundary reform has reduced the number of Westminster constituencies in Wales from 40 to 32 – but as the only corner of the UK with a Labour government at present, this General Election campaign in Wales is focussed on scrutinising Labour’s reputation and record in government.

The political landscape in Wales is almost unrecognisable when compared to December 2019. As a Brexit-voting country, Wales was in the eye of the storm in 2019, with bitter fights between Labour and Conservatives in key swing constituencies. Labour lost six seats and the Conservatives made gains in north east Wales, Bridgend and Ynys Môn.

Fast forward to 2024, the Conservatives face the real prospect of a total wipe out in Wales. All bets are on for how things will play out on 4 July – especially if you are a candidate in Montgomeryshire and Glyndwr…

 

Pylon the pressure

In terms of energy and infrastructure, beyond cross-party agreement on a technical policy that is not widely understood by the public – the devolution of The Crown Estate – the liveliest debate concerns pylons.

In the new Westminster constituency of Caerfyrddin, it is the number one issue on the doorstep and at hustings. Local campaign groups and candidates alike have expressed their desire for cables to be buried underground in the interest of preserving the untouched natural beauty of the Tywi valley.

In the Senedd, a recent Plaid Cymru debate was held which aimed to make it mandatory for all new electricity distribution lines in Wales to be placed underground. Plaid wanted the wording in Planning Policy Wales amended to remove the existing caveat around project cost.

Although the motion was defeated by Welsh Labour, the Cabinet Secretary explained that the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru are not “miles apart on this motion at all.” Julie James said she is “very happy to look at how we can make sure that a lot more of our cabling goes underground” and that the Welsh Government needs to “tighten up what they mean by unaffordable.”

Copper will bring you news of any updates to Planning Policy Wales as a result of an independent advisory group that has been set up.

 

Welsh Labour

It is fair to say that those in Welsh Labour’s HQ have not had the smoothest of starts to this General Election campaign with the row about donations to Vaughan Gething’s leadership campaign still trundling away.

Labour’s Shadow Wales Secretary faced tough questions from Catrin Haf Jones on S4C’s Y Byd yn ei Le about Welsh Labour’s management of the donations issue and questions around the party’s support for the embattled First Minister. Labour’s candidate selection process was also criticised as well as Labour’s commitment to the devolution of justice and Wales’s missing billions in HS2 funding.

However, Welsh Labour’s tanks are firmly parked on the opposition parties’ lawns. The campaign is focused on reminding voters what the last fourteen years of Conservative rule and “economic chaos” have been like for people, saying “the Tories have taken a sledgehammer to the British economy.”

Welsh Labour will be hoping to gain seats from right across Wales on election night, a real feat considering where the party was a short four years ago.

 

Welsh Conservatives

The Welsh Conservative’s sight in this election is very firmly set on reminding voters of Labour’s record in Government in Wales and Starmer calling it his “blueprint” for government.

They have promised to scrap Labour’s “blanket” 20mph speed limits, are clear that no new powers will be devolved to Cardiff Bay and have promised to electrify the North Wales mainline.

All polling suggest the Conservatives in Wales are set to face defeat, with the party unlikely to hold any of the gains they made from Labour in 2019. If this happens, the Conservatives could lose some senior Cabinet ministers – Chief Whip Simon Hart and Welsh Secretary David TC Davies are both at real risk of losing their seats.

 

Plaid Cymru

There has been a change in Plaid’s approach over the last week with the leader, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, urging Welsh voters to vote Plaid Cymru to stop a “huge Labour majority” – a line shared by both senior Conservatives and Plaid Cymru representatives.

Plaid’s manifesto included a softer approach when it comes to Welsh independence, and more focus on ensuring Wales gets its fair share in terms of devolution of The Crown Estate to Wales and HS2 consequential funding.

Plaid knows they need to take votes from Labour to win – will this change in approach be enough? Could we see Plaid tempting left-leaning voters who are not enamoured by Starmer? One to watch in seats like Caerfyrddin and Bangor Aberconwy.

 

Welsh Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats were the first to launch their manifesto in this election cycle – a manifesto which will see £760 million in extra funding delivered to Wales.

However, the Lib Dems are only competitive in one seat in Wales in this election – Brecon, Radnor and Cwm Tawe. It is a seat they will be hawkishly watching on election night as they will be hoping to re-gain it, having held its predecessor on and off since 1992.

 

For more on what the General Election results will mean for your organisation or for your projects, please contact Copper’s Wales Lead, Lisa Childs. Copper’s team in Wales is on hand to help you navigate the Senedd and Welsh politics.

 

Does Scotland really hold the key to a Labour majority?

Just under 10 years ago, at the 2015 General Election, Labour was nearly wiped out in Scotland and the electoral map was a sea of SNP yellow. Since then, the SNP has remained dominant but come July 4, the tides are likely to turn and the SNP could be in for a rough ride.

The SNP will undoubtedly lose seats but just how many is uncertain. 18 turbulent months of resignations, police investigations, parliamentary discord and ideological splits threaten the SNP’s long-held and tired dominance, and it presents an opportunity for Labour.

With 57 seats up for grabs, Labour thinks it can take around 28 of them and the party is channelling funds to seats it thinks it can comfortably take from the SNP. It has often been said that Labour winning Scottish seats makes it easier for the party to win the overall election but it has only meant a crucial difference twice; in 1966 and 1974.

Scotland is unlikely to be the gatekeeper to Downing Street in this election as most signs point to Labour having a comfortable – if not record-breaking – majority without needing to turn all of Scotland’s hue to red.

Instead, a Labour resurgence north of the border next month might be a sign of things to come in a much tighter 2026 Scottish Parliament election. It could determine whether the constitutional dispute on Scottish independence heats up again or languishes on the back burner.

The SNP has said that a vote for it is a vote for independence, and at its manifesto launch, it said it would trigger talks on independence if it secures a majority of seats next month. Regardless of which party controls Westminster, the government in London will probably remain uninterested in engaging in independence and approving another referendum.

If the SNP fails to secure a majority, the independence question will not disappear but it might force the party to take a less aggressive stance. And a detrimental loss of support will only make it harder for John Swinney to make the case ahead of 2026 where he, or whoever might be next in the SNP line of succession, may have to make way for Anas Sarwar as First Minister.

It is also worth touching on the Conservatives in Scotland. The Tories and SNP might well be battling each other to win seats in the North East but much like the rest of the UK, the Conservatives are a spent force. Rishi Sunak and Douglas Ross, the [for now] leader of the Scottish Conservatives, are unpopular figures and the party, according to a recent Ipsos MRP, might only win around four seats at most.

The main fight is between the SNP and Labour, and both are working hard to ensure they can persuade undecideds and gain broad support for their agendas. But the question remains, not if the SNP will lose seats but how many and whether an inevitable headache on the morning of July 5 becomes a migraine that dogs the party for years to come.

 

You can find more of our public affairs content on our General Election Hub. 

To find out more about Copper’s work in Scotland please get in touch with Jamie Bannerman.

 

Now that the dust has settled following the publication of the manifestos by Labour and the Conservatives, many are looking to see whether there is any greater clarity on their policies on carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), hydrogen and industrial clusters.

Industrial decarbonisation, CCUS and hydrogen has been one policy area that has seen relatively large-scale government intervention over the last few years. Clusters have emerged across the UK, and started to progress at different speeds. This has been supported by various funding schemes alongside private investment. But it remains early days in this process, and therefore the election comes at a pivotal time for the clusters and these industries.

 

Industrial clusters and CCUS

The Conservative manifesto effectively commits in high level terms. This would continue the mission they have already started on industrial and CCUS clusters.

The manifesto commits to building the first two carbon capture and storage clusters, based across North Wales, the North West of England and Teesside & Humber. This is referring to the HyNet and East Coast clusters which are already being developed at various speeds. Some areas of shared infrastructure progressing through the planning process and individual projects within these clusters advancing through the government’s cluster sequencing phases.

There is also a commitment to further expansion, which again, is a reference to plans by the current government to expand the clusters to cover Aberdeen and Humberside. It’s an area of energy policy under this government where there has already been plenty of state involvement. Nonetheless, industry will welcome the recommitment to this important area. Labour, by comparison, is committing £1 billion to accelerating deployment of carbon capture. It also wishes to invest in storage too, as part of its overall ‘Clean Power by 2030’ pledge. Labour intends to finance these industrial clusters in ‘every corner of the country’ via its National Wealth Fund.

Both parties remain committed to achieving net zero by 2050. Whilst Labour will likely continue with the cluster model, time will tell how they might deviate from existing plans. For example, how would they treat projects outside the clusters, and what other regions would be a priority for expansion?

 

Hydrogen

The home heating debate remains a difficult one for all political parties. Intriguingly, the manifestos do not provide a definitive answer. A bit more light is shed on the approach to industrial hydrogen.

The Tory manifesto only mentions hydrogen once. It does so in relation to a future government helping oversee the Scottish workplace transition to hydrogen, offshore wind, tidal and carbon capture. The current government previously published a hydrogen strategy. In that, it committed to an ambition for 10GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030. It has supported a number of projects through hydrogen funding schemes. With this in mind, it is interesting to see this not given prominence in the manifesto.

Labour, however, gives more detail on where it would go on hydrogen. It plans to invest £500 million alone in supporting the manufacture of green hydrogen via its National Wealth Fund. It expects to do this in ‘every corner of the country’, suggesting a hydrogen strategy with a more nationwide focus.

 

Conclusion

Both parties share a commitment to a continuation of industrial and CCUS clusters. The Conservatives focus on Scotland, Wales and the North East, with plans for additional expansion. Industry will be pleased to see that both parties have some consensus on their value. However, a question mark remains over what Labour might do differently if they win on 4th July. Questions also remain about what other regions might come into play outside the existing clusters following a Labour victory.

The Conservatives provided less detail in their manifesto on plans for hydrogen, in spite of previous commitments on raising overall production capacity, which might give industry some pause for thought. Labour provided a more sweeping, costed strategy for green hydrogen. This might give more reassurance for industry on potential expansion in government investment in this field.

One thing is clear: there will be divergences over the scope of industrial and CCUS cluster and hydrogen policy depending on which party wins, but government investment will remain integral for all three areas for the time being.

 

Find more content around the General Election here. 

Account Director Aimée Howard shares her perspectives after canvassing in two very different Labour target seats. 

Last week, I had the invigorating experience of hitting the pavements for Labour. Canvassing in two very different constituencies, the London Borough of Chelsea & Fulham, and Southend West & Leigh in Essex. This underscored the diverse challenges and opportunities that come with political campaigning, and the critical need for grassroots engagement and detailed policy discussions to win over undecided voters.

 

Chelsea & Fulham: A New Labour Stronghold

In Chelsea & Fulham, the Labour campaign is riding high on a wave of optimism. This seat exemplifies Labour’s growing foothold in London, with candidate Ben Coleman predicted to win with a staggering 80%+ of the vote, according to Electoral Calculus. In the 2010 election, only five other constituencies across the country voted more strongly for the Conservative Party, and incumbent MP Greg Hands has never won with less than 49% of the vote. Once hailed as a pivotal figure in the Tories’ resurgence in London, Hands’ waning popularity mirrors a national trend of growing discontent with Conservative leadership.

The swing towards Labour was palpable on the streets. As I knocked on doors and spoke to residents, the conversations were overwhelmingly positive. Many people expressed strong support for Labour policies, praising Coleman’s work in the community, through his role as Deputy Leader of the Council, and his vision for the future of Charing Cross Hospital.

The atmosphere in Fulham & Chelsea felt almost celebratory. Volunteers were greeted with smiles and encouragement, and there was a sense of collective purpose. This stronghold for Labour is a testament to the party’s ability to connect with voters and address local concerns effectively. Coleman is a widely recognised figure, and his work in the local area to support military veterans was consistently raised on doorsteps.

Hands is certainly pulling out all the stops to retain his seat, even going so far as to take credit for Transport for London’s improvements to District Line services through his constituency. His potential defeat on 4 July would not only be a significant personal setback but could also continue the broader shift in London’s political landscape. With Kensington & Bayswater and Cities of London & Westminster also at risk of swinging to Labour, Hands’ loss could contribute to a complete ousting of Tory MPs from inner London.

 

Southend West & Leigh: The Battle for Hearts and Minds

In stark contrast, the atmosphere in Southend West & Leigh was one of intense competition and uncertainty. Strong Labour candidate David Burton-Sampson is facing a tough battle against Anna Firth. Firth won the old seat of Southend West in a by-election on 3 February 2022, following the tragic death of Sir David Amess in 2021. The seat has always retained a Conservative MP.

Canvassing in Southend West & Leigh required a different approach. The conversations were more nuanced, as many residents were still undecided or expressed mixed feelings about the candidates. We encountered a broad spectrum of opinions, from strong Labour supporters to staunch conservatives. However a significant number of voters were on the fence. Each conversation felt crucial, as every vote could potentially swing the outcome.

Issues such as crime rates, NHS funding, local infrastructure and water companies/pollution were top of the mind for many voters. Burton-Sampson’s campaign focuses on these community concerns. His personal approach to door knocking and having 1-1 conversations is crucial in swaying undecided voters and clarifying any misconceptions.

Despite the challenging environment, the spirit of the volunteers was noticeable. We were met with both support and skepticism, but each interaction reinforced the importance of grassroots campaigning.

 

The Power of Canvassing

Canvassing in these two constituencies highlighted the diversity within the electorate and the varied challenges of political campaigning. It showed  the importance of tailored messaging and the need for campaigners to adapt their strategies based on the local context. In areas with strong Labour support, reinforcing key messages and ensuring high voter engagement is essential. In more contested areas, the focus shifts to detailed policy discussions, addressing specific local issues, and building personal connections with voters.

Door-knocking and canvassing remain vital components of any successful campaign. They provide an invaluable opportunity to connect directly with voters, understand their concerns, and articulate how Labour’s policies can make a tangible difference in their lives. As we move closer to the 2024 general election, these grassroots efforts will be crucial in securing victories across the country, from strongholds to battlegrounds alike. Every conversation counts.

 

Find more content around the General Election here. 

🚆 Download the Transport summary here.

 

Find the latest on the Labour Manifesto and what this means for Energy and Infrastructure and Water through our summary.

To discuss the findings in more detail, and to discuss how your organisation can make sure they are prepared for the election please email Patrick Traynor.

Download the Energy and Water summary here.

 

Find the latest on the Labour Manifesto and what this means for Energy and Water through our summary.

To discuss the findings in more detail, and to discuss how your organisation can make sure they are prepared for the election please email Patrick Traynor.

 

Download the summary here.

Find the latest on the Conservative Manifesto and what this means for Energy and Infrastructure through our summary.

To discuss the findings in more detail, and to discuss how your organisation can make sure they are prepared for the election please email Patrick Traynor.