Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called a general election, to be held on Thursday 4 July.  

 

The Conservatives head into the election in a difficult position, trailing Labour by more than 20 points in an average of opinion polls and following a difficult set of local elections and parliamentary by-elections. While a Conservative comeback during the forthcoming election cannot be ruled out, Labour are currently extremely strong favourites to win a sizeable majority.  

Parliament is expected to dissolve by 30 May with next week’s Whitsun recess cancelled, with further details expected to be laid out tomorrow morning on dissolution dates and final parliamentary business to take place before then. Parliament’s dissolution will mark the official start of campaigning and the beginning of the pre-election period, at which point the Government will no longer be able to make substantial policy or fiscal announcements.  

Political parties are expected to launch their policy manifestos and agendas for Government in the next 2-3 weeks. Similar to previous general elections, Sunak and Starmer may also agree to face off in televised debates, though at the time of writing this has yet to be confirmed.  

Further detail on the consequences of the election for clients in the energy and infrastructure sectors can be found below. 

  

Preparing your projects for an election

There is not a universal approach, and what is right for one project might not work for another.  

 

For this reason, we will be providing individual and bespoke advice to each of our projects. However, the following will need to be considered: 

 

1. Timing for consultation – if your project is planning on going to consultation during the pre-election period, then this will need careful consideration. This does not mean that consultations can’t continue as planned, but you will need to engage with the local authority and ensure that an election does not fetter people’s ability to respond to consultation and therefore make it ‘inadequate’ in their minds.   

You may also need to consider if amendments are needed to currently live consultation progammes. They may need prolonging or require more publicity after the election. Inevitably there will be challenges around consulting during the summer holidays. This is not insurmountable, especially if you can justify ways to allow people to respond during the holiday period and can plan some events outside the school holidays. All this is worth discussing with your key consultees and local authority for feedback. 

It is worth bearing in mind the Government’s position on the consultations it runs. The advice is for consultations to be postponed between dissolution of Parliament and the date of an election unless essential, but that ongoing consultations can proceed. 

 

2. Applications and broader support for project – outside of consultations, it is important that you can build and demonstrate political support for your project and ambitions in the next parliament. Your project is likely to span parliaments, and therefore be approved by a new secretary of state. This new secretary of state will naturally have a different ideology and be subject to different external factors. It is important they are well briefed and understand what you are hoping to achieve.  

 

3. Keep communicating but with balance – if you don’t communicate there is a risk that the vacuum will be filled by someone else. But a careful balance needs to be struck with the risk of raising the profile of a project unnecessarily into a political issue. Either way you try and find safe ground to communicate, such as on the strategic need and benefits of our projects rather than the detail. This will help protect project reputations and highlight why they are needed regardless of who ends up in government. 

 

Preparing your business for change

A General Election will mean change, and businesses have been planning for a new government in the build-up. However, maximising the election campaign period and managing risks is crucial.  

All polls suggest a change of government, with a Labour majority looking the most likely option. 

There will also be a substantial change in the makeup of the next Parliament. Over 100 MPs have already announced they are standing down, and many other seats look odds on to change hands.  

 

We have set out five key steps to ensure that your business is ready for change, and how Copper can support you:  

 

1. Understand policy changes –  The Labour Party has an ambitious policy agenda in the infrastructure space, with a plan to switch on “Great British Energy” being amongst the Party’s 5 key pledges to the nation.  

Copper will be providing analysis and overview of relevant infrastructure related policies from the major political parties to ensure our clients’ businesses factor in potential policy changes. 

To help, we are also offering a programme of bespoke election briefings – please email patrick.traynor@copperconsutlancy for more details.  

 

2. Understand shifts in political opinion and sentiment – working with BMG Research we will be tracking the latest polling, changes in opinions and views on infrastructure.  This will help you understand what drives politicians, voters and the overall direction of campaigns.  Politicians may take particular stances on infrastructure during the campaign, and our insight can help you understand whether these are supported by popular opinion. 

 

3. Election campaign engagement – it is vital as a business you have a clear strategy for this election period, and are aware of the risks and opportunities from involving yourself in a campaign period.  Copper can support with refining this strategy.  For example, If you have an infrastructure project in a marginal seat, don’t be surprised to be approached to host a campaign site visit. This may present a chance to engage directly with senior politicians and key stakeholders, and raise the profile of your organisation.  Some businesses may also actively seek to create engagement opportunities by inviting key stakeholders to visit sites, especially if they are located in a battle ground seat.  At the same time, it is important to be cognisant of the risks of being seen to enter the election campaign and potentially endorse a party. The key is to agree in advance how you will approach any request, and ensure any activity is carefully managed.  

  

4. Stay on top of news while cutting through the noise – election campaigns move quickly with 24/7 coverage. It is a challenge to stay on top of news items that matter most to you. If you would like to discuss a daily or weekly monitoring service during the election, please do get in touch.  

 

5. Prepare for the first 100 days of a new government – A new cabinet will be formed and a new government will start the process of trying to implement their manifesto in the first three months.  

Businesses will jostle for position to welcome new ministers to their post, and attempt to land key messages. If you have had engagement prior to the election, it is also important to follow up on this as soon as possible. 

Attention will also begin to turn to legislation. Plans for legislation will come forward during this window – for example, if Labour win, expect to see plans for an Energy Security Bill come forward. This is where the discussion will shift from sound bites during the election campaign, to in-depth and detailed policy debates.  

The election period can be used to plan for these first 100 days and to make sure you have a clear plan in place for political engagement.  Whilst it is unlikely you will achieve your public affairs objectives within these first 100 days,  they represent a prime time to lay the groundwork and foundations for a successful engagement plan.  

In particular, it is also worth thinking about a plan for Party Conference, which now looks set to go ahead as planned in September, and will be a major set piece event for the new government. New ministers will be in attendance, and policy will be heavily debated and discussed in the fringes. 

 

For more information please email patrick.traynor@copperconsutlancy for more details.