The Conservatives resign themselves to defeat; Reeves leads the charge

We are now firmly in the second half of this election campaign and the Conservatives seem to have given up any hope that they can win. You can see why. Poll after poll suggests that they will be lucky to get 100 seats, with Labour seemingly on course to win around 450. Rishi Sunak looks increasingly uncomfortable, and people are beginning to feel sorry for him – not a good sign for his campaign team.

Sunak looks south

The Conservative strategy is wholly focused on defending seats in the south of England which for years have provided seats with majorities of more than 10,000 for high flyers, including several Cabinet members. Polling indicates these are anything but safe, so the voters of Surrey and Sussex, Hampshire and Wiltshire, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire have been treated to multiple visits from senior Conservatives attempting to shore up waning support. Retaining seats here is essential for the future of the party, not just to avoid being wiped out but to ensure that there is a reasonably sized pool of MPs from which a new leader can be chosen to pick up the pieces.

The Conservatives have two attack lines that we should expect to dominate the remaining weeks. They continue to assert that Labour will increase taxes (claims repeatedly rebutted by Labour) and that voting Conservative is the only way to avoid giving “former Corbyn supporter” Sir Keir Starmer a “super majority”. It is a strategy to dissuade disgruntled Conservative voters from voting for Reform UK. The reality is that Reform is not likely to win more than two or three seats, but splitting the vote leaves Labour and, in a few notable cases, the Lib Dems, a chance to take seats from the Conservatives. I am not convinced the message is landing.

Labour needs business

For its part, Labour is continuing to pursue a cautious strategy, reassuring voters that is the only choice for change and that it can be trusted with the economy, security and public services. It has deliberately avoided showy stunts and its manifesto was in line with an agenda already well-rehearsed. The most notable element of it was the focus on growth – it is a big gamble to pin plans for investment not on increasing taxes rates but on increasing wealth. The party will be counting on voters sharing its confidence or at least not listening to sceptics.

If last week was all about Starmer and the manifesto, this week will see Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves, take centre stage, with a pledge to “restore economic stability”. We will see this message appearing on billboards and flooding social media. She will also host an “infrastructure day” bringing in business leaders to discuss plans to harness private investment to boost growth.

This wooing of business by Labour will continue well beyond the election. While it has undoubtedly contributed to perceptions that Starmer has delivered on his promise to change the Labour Party, its purpose was always deeper. With the public sector financially constrained, Labour needs business if it is to achieve its vision for growth.


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