General Election 2024

Sunak vs. Starmer – The First Debate

With just four weeks to go until the country goes to the polls, the leaders of the UK’s two main parties locked horns in the first head-head debate. 

The debate was centred around the issues that polling suggests are the core issues for voters, namely; the economy, the NHS and immigration. Labour leader Keir Starmer sought to attack the Conservative government record, whilst Rishi Sunak sought to project his party as the safe option – for both the economy and national security. 


A Fiery Exchange  

For millions, this was a first opportunity to see the two party leaders battle it out on their TV screens, and was punctuated by several moments in which the argument boiled over, as both leaders spoke over one another and their moderator. 

For Sunak, the aim was to convey a message that the economy was safe under the Conservatives, that the economy was growing and that a future Conservative government would cut taxes and invest in the NHS and schools to continue to deliver prosperity. His message was that an incoming Labour government would put economic progress at risk, and raise taxes, citing a report that he said showed Labour policies would cost households £2,000 each in total. This statistic was repeated several times during the debate, but its veracity was challenged. 

Following the debate, Sir Keir accused Sunak of breaking the ministerial code for lying to the country in making the £2,000 tax claim. Sunak faces a further headache, as James Bowler, chief Treasury civil servant, wrote to Labour Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Darren Jones, clarifying that Sunak’s assessment of Labour’s tax plans in this instance shouldn’t “be presented as having been produced by the civil service.” 

Sir Keir Starmer outlined what he viewed as 14 years of ‘Conservative chaos’, focusing specifically on the 49-day premiership of Sunak’s predecessor, Liz Truss, and the negative impact of her administration’s mini-budget in September 2022. Following the pandemic and the mini-budget shock, Starmer claimed the Conservatives had already presided over a tax burden at its highest level in 75 years. 


Climate, environment and energy policy 

In keeping with the campaign so far, climate change and the environment were not top of the agenda. However, there was a short segment that saw the leaders pressed on this issue. Sunak spoke to the concerns his own daughters had about climate change, but added that bold decisions had to be taken to ensure greater energy security and lower energy bills. He attempted to sting Starmer with a claim that Labour would effectively ban North Sea energy, including oil and gas extraction, and that bills would be higher under a Labour government. He also suggested that Labour would mandate households to switch to hydrogen boilers and heat pumps, which he suggested would equate to a cost of up to £7,000. 

Starmer framed this as an opportunity to present Labour’s proposal for Great British Energy, a publicly-owned energy company which he claimed would generate profits to be invested back into public services, provide energy security and lead to a reduction in energy bills. The Conservatives, on the other hand, he claimed, by slowing down their climate change plans, would cost the taxpayer more money than under a Labour government by 2030. 


Poll Watch 

A flash poll by YouGov after the debate found voters believing Sunak narrowly won the debate by 51% to Sir Keir Starmer’s 49%.  Subsequent polls by Savanta and JL Partners gave Starmer a victory. The overall feeling is the debate wasn’t enough to shift the dial, with voting intention polls from across the UK’s polling companies presenting a consistent message: Labour leads the Conservatives by roughly 20 points, and this would potentially be enough to deliver a Labour landslide victory on 4th July. 

The election campaign is expected to see further such debates in the coming weeks, with both Sunak and Starmer hoping their respective views will cut through with the electorate. Moving forwards, it’s possible to see the Conservatives intend to use tax and immigration to appeal to voters, whereas Labour will be seeking to criticise the government’s record and making the argument for a change in government. 

A week is a long time in politics, and anything can happen. Just imagine what could happen over the next four. 

A week on from the NATS outage – an aviation industry fighting on four fronts

The UK’s air traffic control system was brought down in a “one in 15 million” event, according to a report published on Wednesday of this week.

The now infamous outage resulted in 1,500 flight cancellations on Monday 28 August alone, which had disastrous knock-on effects as this was, of course, one of the busiest days in aviation: the end of the summer holidays Bank Holiday Monday.

The NATS report also cites Eurocontrol data as showing 5,592 flights operated in UK airspace on 28 August, 2,000 (or 25%) fewer than had been expected. This includes cancelled flights and those which avoided UK airspace.


On Monday, Copper’s Lisa Childs was on BBC Radio Cymru’s breakfast show, Dros Frecwast, discussing what we can learn from the NATS outage through the medium of Welsh.

You can listen back here

Lisa, formerly Heathrow Airport’s External Affairs Lead, argued that critical national infrastructure needs investment to remain safe, reliable and efficient. As former Silver Commander for crises at Britain’s biggest airport, she also stated that the aviation industry – which is a complex network of thousands of private companies – needs more coordinated crisis response exercises so that major incidents like this can be avoided, or at least, their impact reduced.


The NATS report into the air traffic control incident was published on Wednesday.

A very narrow and technical report, detailing the root cause of the outage and solution implemented in response.

Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary has slammed the report as “rubbish”, claiming that the findings “downplay the impact on the aviation industry” and said the report was “full of excuses”. Mr O’Leary told the BBC that the disruption will cost Ryanair alone between £15m and £20m in refunds for hotels, food and alternative travel arrangements.

Industry group Airlines UK’s response was slightly more muted, focussing instead on how airlines’ costs could be covered by government or NATS. Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said: “airlines cannot be the insurer of a last resort” and expressed his desire for NATS and government to explore how these costs can be covered under current legislation.


The UK’s aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), has also announced an independent review.

The CAA are expected to report in a few months’ time. The watchdog said it could take action if NATS had breached “statutory and licensing obligations”.

In short, a mixed response from the aviation industry. This is an industry fighting on four fronts: still bearing the scars of the catastrophic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and absent government support; bracing itself for the challenging economic context on the horizon and what this means for consumer confidence; responding to operational realities and crises; and one which is trying to adapt to the climate crisis and convince its passengers that aviation isn’t the enemy.

On the latter challenge, amongst the NATS chatter snuck a welcome commitment from the Department from Transport to introduce a revenue certainty scheme. This was heralded as a positive step towards developing a UK sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) industry that could create over 10,000 new jobs by 2030, boost fuel security and play a major role in driving down aviation carbon emissions this decade and beyond.

The aviation industry believes that SAFs are pivotal to deliver its net zero emissions by 2050 target but warns that the opportunity to develop a domestic SAF industry is at risk without decisive action from the Government too. Industry leaders want the UK Government to focus on the rapid design and implementation of the revenue certainty scheme, so it is in place before 2026, to help meet the Jet Zero Strategy commitment of having at least five UK plants under construction by 2025.


To find out more about Copper Consultancy, and how we can support clients in the aviation industry, please contact Senior Account Director Lisa Childs on




Copper Consultancy is proud to have supported National Highways as it has secured planning consent for the A303 Stonehenge project.

As one of the UK’s most prestigious and important infrastructure projects in the UK, the proposal is now a significant step closer, to reconnecting the landscape at Stonehenge, currently severed by the road. The project will also reduce major congestion created by a single carriageway and alleviate rat running through nearby villages.

Copper has been working with National Highways since 2016

Providing communications, engagement and consultation advice and delivery. Our work focuses on establishing a clear and consistent narrative for the project. This engaging story enables us to undertake industry leading engagement programmes with the widest range of stakeholders in the region, across the UK and internationally.

Martin McCrink, Managing Partner, Copper said:

“The A303 Stonehenge tunnel has been part of life at Copper for many years. Achieving this consent is an important milestone.

“The project required incredible leadership from so many organisations to get to this point. The compelling narrative and need behind the project has been key to that, and we are proud to have played our part. It is a prestigious project and we’ve been able to work with some amazingly talented people over the years.”

The project has attracted unprecedented interest from a range of communities in the UK and international organisations with specialist interests. The Secretary of State said in the consent letter that he was “satisfied there is a clear need” for the new tunnel and the project’s “harm on spatial, visual relations and settings is less than substantial and should be weighed against the public benefits”.

Copper supports clients

This includes National Highways, National Grid, Grosvenor, ScottishPower, RWE, Vattenfall, Downing, Bristol Airport and HS2. Our support focuses on developing the country’s much needed infrastructure. Our approach is to help clients secure the highest quality consent in the shortest possible time. This encompasses the greatest level of public, stakeholder and political support, all informed with data led strategies.


Powering up a ‘green’ design for RSK’s new electric vehicle fleet.

RSK Group approached our design team requesting a fresh and appropriately ‘green’ design for the livery of a new electric vehicle (EV) fleet. The aim was to develop a slightly modified version of the existing RSK design to make the new EVs stand out. This would help raise public awareness of RSK switching to EVs and reflect the company’s commitment to sustainability, caring for the planet and tackling climate change.

The main challenge was creating and adjusting a design that would suit various vehicles in the fleet, given the differences in vehicle size and shape. This involved manipulating and rearranging the various elements of the design to fit accordingly. As part of the process, our designer visited the company that applies livery designs to vehicles. Seeing the designs brought to life at full size was very different from the challenges of creating them on a small screen in the design studio.

Copper Consultancy hosted an online panel focusing on the role the transport sector could play in a modal shift in the Transport East region. The webinar, chaired by Gemma Lloyd, Account Director for Transport, discussed active travel implementation, decarbonisation, road inclusivity and safety – featuring insight from Sarah Jane Crawford (Network Rail), Esme Yuill (Transport East), Marny Moruzzi (Mott Macdonald) and Laura Nelson (Copper).

The session discussed the need for localised and inclusive engagement, to better understand the daily transport-related barriers that people living in the region faced. As mentioned by Esme Yuill, the Transport East region is extremely rural, meaning that the accessibility of town centres by walking or public transport is even lower than the rural average. All the panellists agreed that there is a need for an integrated transport plan in the region, focusing especially on reducing car dependency.

Understanding how people use different transport links, and the needs of different communities, can play an important role in changing the way projects are being delivered. Sarah Jane Crawford emphasised the importance of listening to people, providing an example of a rail connection removed during Covid which was known to everyone in the area as the “school train”. The importance and value of local knowledge provided by stakeholders were emphasised during the panel, as many local residents and stakeholders can become project advocates if only they are listened to.

In addition to this, there is a need to make train journeys more appealing to the local community. A stable journey, meaning a reliable train to reduce ‘dead time’ is important to entice people to use public transport. By making the journey time reliable it can result in a more comfortable experience with public transport.

Marny Moruzzi who is Vice President of Women in Transport noted that “we need to pay more attention to community-based initiatives” pointing out that with the number of big projects in the region, engaging with local towns and villages is crucial. Marny rightly mentioned that there is a reason why people enjoy living in rural areas and that sometimes too much development can cause resentment as it could spoil the rurality of the region. That’s why communication and localised engagement are crucial when developing new transport improvements, as well as when thinking of proposed projects.

Another point discussed was the transition to electric vehicles, given how many people need to drive in the East region, to be able to access work, school and health facilities. Esme Yuill highlighted the various issues associated with chargers’ placement, firstly, on often historic streets, and secondly considering the commercial and political challenges.

All panellists agreed that there is no one thing that will be able to mitigate the unique challenges that the region currently faces. As a third of people in the East live in rural areas, it is especially important to improve transport in those areas. Transport East has been developing a Centre of Excellence for rural mobility, focusing on the challenges and opportunities associated with transport in the region.


To watch Copper Consultancy’s webinar on Connecting the Rural Areas, click here (you may need to register in order to be able to access the recording.)

As we begin to see more scrutiny over the public purse in post-Covid Britain, we may see a proportion of funding diverted away from large, strategic transport projects.

We need a step-change in our relationships with privately owned cars if we are to reach our net zero targets.

Read the report here.

The very words ‘airspace change consultation’ present a complicated and technical picture that will seem somewhat irrelevant for many people.

With the forthcoming airspace change coming for many airports around the UK, we’re giving our key considerations, challenges and top tips to cut through the noise and make consultations as straight-forward and useful as possible.


Key considerations

Airspace change consultations are a requirement. This immediately puts engagement in risk of being run haphazardly, or as a tick-box exercise or afterthought with little thought about the audience.

The first, and most important consideration, is that a consultation is an opportunity to build relationships with your local stakeholders.

Instead of viewing this as a task, flip the script and get excited about creating new touchpoints, new collateral and vocalise the positive work you’re doing.

Consultation events present a fantastic opportunity for you to learn what people like and dislike, what matters most to the community and ultimately, to hear what they want. This point of contact doesn’t come around too often, so use it to reflect, review and revive your communications.



Airspace change is confusing.

There is an abundance of technicalities that affect the operational delivery of an airport. But in reality, this will not impact your consultation attendees.

People want to know how this will affect their day-to-day life. Questions like:

          Will it be noisy over my child’s nap time?

          Will I see that plane from my favourite garden seat?

          Will I notice the difference on weekends?

We must not forget that airspace changes do affect people’s lives and it can have an impact on their everyday routines.

With that said, consultation gives you the chance to directly address these concerns. Getting people on the ground in the local communities to openly discuss, manage expectations and level concerns will go a long way to help relationships with your stakeholders. Through open dialogue and acknowledging the challenges, you can clearly set out the steps you’re taking that will mitigate adverse impacts.


Top tips for consultation:

  1. Technology is your friend: When it comes to something as technical as airspace change, if there is a way to present information in an engaging and exciting way, it should be worth considering. There are brilliant tools to help show changes to airspace, from interactive maps, virtual reality, and noise pollution simulations. Where possible, use it. Of course, budget dictates the art of the possible so choose where to invest.


  1. Visuals over written: When speaking or presenting to stakeholders on airspace change, language can sound scary.


  1. Plain English is key: Where possible, simplify the language to plain English and refrain from using technical jargon. When considering what ‘plain English’ looks like, a simple tip is to imagine explaining it to your family. If the information is not sensitive, you could actually ask them to read it. If they understand, great! If they don’t, more can be done to help land the messaging. If you can’t find a way of explaining in plain English, ask whether it would be better as a visual, or whether you need to include it in public-facing materials at all.


  1. Have people on the ground: While digital-first can streamline engagement, digital-only is a dangerous precedent to set and strips out the important relationship-building that people value and your team needs to carry out. Organising accessible and inclusive events within the local community provide opportunity for informal interaction. Through showing visual graphics, audio simulations and Q&A slots, you are opening the door to meaningful interaction with stakeholders.


To chat about your upcoming work and how we can help, email

‘The future of urban futuring.’

This is the tagline greeting you when you visit – a simple, no-frills landing page that gets straight to the point. What founder and artist Zach Katz instead wants you to focus on is what he’s offering; a unique window into a world no longer burdened by clogged-up road networks, dangerous pedestrian footpaths and unsightly roadworks.

We held our first Active Travel Webinar in June, in which a key conversation topic was centred around ‘the battle for road space’.  From this, it was suggested by our panellists that the UK’s archaic road network was not fit for purpose to yet promote modal shift.

Moving forward with Active Travel – Copper Consultancy


Fans of the television show Westworld will know that Season 4 has reimagined New York City as an almost car-free city, apart from a few autonomous vehicles. The show sees characters walking through quiet pedestrianised streets dotted with plazas, green spaces and an abundance of outdoor seating; a complete juxtaposition of the New York we all know today. This high-budget, polished CGI is captivating, but what do you do when you don’t have a multi-million dollar HBO budget? And what if you want to see the same, but in Slough?

Better Streets has brilliantly highlighted the potential of our existing streets.

The AI software uses text inputs to create a unique image, transforming any traffic-laden street into a bustling pedestrian walkway, a cycle-led active travel route or a grassy tram route in seconds.

The renders aren’t perfect, but they are igniting people’s imagination and, perhaps most importantly, getting more and more people talking about the alternatives to our current travel network. As we look to further embrace multi-modal transport systems in our towns and cities, a simple and relatively cheap piece of technology such as this could be the spark needed.

Copper understands the power that visualisation can have on audiences, enabling them to engage with complex infrastructure projects and understand exactly how it may affect them. This, in turn, enables us to have honest and open conversations. We can work with you to produce animations, renders and other visual-based engagement activities to enhance your project or programme of improvements.

As Katz says: “visualising things is the most powerful way to effect change”.


By Pearce Branigan, Senior Account Manager.

The publication of the Government’s Jet Zero strategy marked a watershed moment for the aviation industry. The document is one of the most far-reaching and significant aviation policies published to date, adding flesh to the bones of how the industry will meet net zero by 2050.

Having supported clients to be among the 1,500 that submitted responses to the Jet Zero consultation, it was heartening to see that the UK Government had taken a bold, albeit challenging, approach. The target seeks to halve the carbon emissions produced between 2019 and 2050, with domestic flights (which comprise 4 per cent of total UK aviation emissions) being given until 2040 to achieve this. This trajectory to 2050 is based on the “high ambition” scenario, setting industry targets of:

  • 4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2030 – which is equivalent to the annual energy usage of five million UK homes.
  • 7 reduction year on year from 2030 to 2040, reaching 28.4 million tonnes or reduction of 7 million tonnes on 2030 limit by 2040.
  • 91 reduction year on year from 2040 to 2050, reaching 19.3 million tonnes or a 9.1 million tonnes reduction on 2040 limit by 2050.

The Government intends to implement this through an emission reduction trajectory for the industry, annually monitoring progress and undertaking bi-decadal reviews. The ambition should be welcomed, but serious consideration should be given to whether the targets themselves are achievable and what they depend on.

The five-year delivery plans will be assessed through six methods: system efficiencies; Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs); zero emission flights; markets and removals; influencing consumers; and addressing non-carbon emissions.

Winging it?

The Government has made great claim of its proactive approach. This has included investing £180 million in research and development for SAFs, committing to having five plants under construction by 2025, along with the introduction of zero carbon aircraft.

However, these actions only account for 21 per cent of the intended carbon reductions in the industry up to 2050. Fuel efficiency improvements for airport operations, including the maintenance and refueling of planes along with the ancillary tasks associated with aviation account for a further 15 per cent of the intended carbon reductions in the industry up to 2050.



The mainstay of the strategy is dependent on existing emissions caps in the form of the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and the United Nations Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme (CORSIA), which are expected to deliver over 27 per cent of carbon reductions by 2050. The ambition is that the same (or greater) numbers of flights will occur, but improvements in technology and fuel efficiency will enable the industry not only to avoid breaching the threshold for emissions, but actually lowering them.

Although the technology is there to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, by the strategy’s own admission it is ‘dependent on technological development proceeding at the same rate’ to achieve this. There is no certainty that the required technological innovation will continue at the same rate and if it doesn’t, the UK will have to rely on other areas to cover the shortfall in emission reductions.

As for the remaining 37 per cent, this will come from abatement outside the aviation industry, with no suggestion as to who, what or how this will be achieved.

Where the buck stops

The timing of Jet Zero’s publication occurs at a significant juncture in public opinion. The looming cost of living crisis, with fuel costs rising, has dampened appetite for environmentally inclined public spending and taxes. For some, the cost associated with achieving net zero is proving unappealing.

This brewing frustration has influenced a shift in the rhetoric of the governing party over the previous 10 months. The excitement following the UK’s hosting of COP26 in October 2021 towards achieving net zero remains, but there is now a growing difference of opinion about how to get there. For example, the Foreign Secretary and Prime Ministerial candidate Liz Truss’ proposal to temporarily cut green energy levies, which is at odds with the accepted dogma of 10 months ago to increase or even impose more.

With the medical requirements to travel abroad all but rescinded, the UK population has been returning to enjoy international travel. Households already feeling the pinch of the energy crisis may become less inclined to support the drive to net zero when their annual holiday plans are impacted. Low-income families who anticipate the two-week holiday abroad as a necessity for their own mental and physical wellbeing during the working year may be at the core of future net zero scepticism, when the levies which will drive forward net zero make their yearly holidays unaffordable. This raises the question: has the drive to decarbonise aviation focussed on winning over the aviation industry, while failing to bring the public along as well?

An innovation nation

With public expenditure likely to be reduced after the significant burden of managing the UK’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government must consider alternative measures to financial investment to achieve Jet Zero. Whether easing the pathway to visas for specialists working in this area of research, or by agreeing trade deals with nations who have the materials needed to build these technologies, innovation will be key to unlocking the carbon reductions needed to meet net zero in aviation and the UK by 2050.

For the people, without the people?

The Government should ensure that they engage with the public across all net zero policies, so that their input is both credibly sought and applied. The inherent risk with the Government’s current approach of engaging separate industries and not the wider public, is that implementing a policy for the benefit of the UK population, without consulting the population, may cause their concerns to go unheeded. If no action is taken to register or address any outstanding concerns, then it may prove that sections of the population become indifferent, or even opponents of the very drive towards net zero.