2022 saw the Conservative Party in a perpetual state of crisis, plagued by scandal, policy error and resignations. Controversy was aplenty in Westminster and it’s safe to say that all three of 2022’s Prime Ministers would characterise last year as one to forget. This tumultuous political landscape looks set to continue into 2023 with growing pressure facing the Conservative Party but what else will the new year have in store?
Rishi vs Keir
After an undoubtedly catastrophic year for the Conservative Party which has seen scandal and local/by-election losses plague them, Rishi Sunak will be looking to the new year with a fresh pair of eyes and will do anything to put the past behind him.
The task cannot be understated, despite occupying No.10 for over 12 years, the Conservative Party now face one of the most significant challenges to their rule. At the time of writing, a “People Polling Survey” gives Labour and Keir Starmer a 26-point lead heading into 2023, which would translate to an electoral landslide and decimation of the Parliamentary Conservative Party.
So, where are the battlegrounds in UK politics going to be in 2023? Whilst it remains to be seen, and is probably a game for the gambling man on what will happen this year, the major policy issues are evident. The cost of living crisis will dominate throughout, with Sunak’s “growth plan” for the economy looking to win back traditional Conservative voters and the deepening crisis around mortgage/interest rates also a key theme for both parties.
Getting to grips with the energy crisis will be a key remit for the new Prime Minister with the public clambering for further financial support as the spiraling cost of domestic bills become so salient that they dominate conversation at the dinner table.
However, whilst Rishi Sunak faces policy challenges plaguing the nation, Keir Starmer has a long way to go before he cements his “Prime Minister in waiting” status. Anecdotally, the public still appear to not know what the Labour leader stands for politically and it is hardly a solid foundation to win an election on being seen as the “lesser of two evils.” Starmer has spent the last two years drawing the Labour Party into the center ground in a homage to the Blair years with more recent policy announcements mimicking the latter branding the party as “tough on crime.” However, if he is set to capitalise on the meteoric rise in polling numbers, he must create an identity for the Labour Party under his rule and create a cultural and political groundswell behind himself and the party.
What are the communications challenges?
Both Sunak and Starmer face the unique challenge of both distancing themselves from the past whilst at the same time communicating a vision for the country and their respective parties that touches on the successes of their predecessors. For the Conservatives, Rishi Sunak has the obvious difficulty of navigating significantly poor polling numbers largely caused by the crisis-dominated administration of Boris Johnson and the subsequently short-lived tenure of Liz Truss in Downing Street.
One criticism of Boris Johnson was his perceived lack of detail when it came to policy. With his tenure largely dominated by Brexit and COVID, this is hardly surprising. However, Rishi Sunak will be keen to establish a clear policy agenda at a time when the country is anxious about the cost of living crisis. Communicating a clear vision for the country will be key, and work on this has already gotten underway with headline catching announcements such as the pledge to halve inflation and cut waiting lists. Alongside looking to the future, Sunak will be keen to reinforce the Tories reputation as the party of Government, a characterisation that has been diluted in recent years.
On the other side of the Commons, Sir Keir Starmer will be buoyed by recent polling showing substantial leads for the Labour Party. However, as mentioned, many are still waiting for a clear vision of the country from his side of the party. A recent press conference saw the Labour leader produce an homage to the Vote Leave campaign by promising to “take back control” by devolving new powers from Westminster to communities over childcare, housing employment support, transport and energy. Whether or not this signals the Labour Party gearing into election mode remains to be seen, however, communicating clear policy announcements will remain at the top of his agenda.
Finally, across the political spectrum many people are still, correctly or incorrectly, linking the former Shadow Brexit Secretary with the previous leader Jeremy Corbyn. As the party shifts to the center, it is clear that a more Blairite offering to the public is where Starmer wants his party to be but communicating in the same as the last Labour Government did may be easier said than done.
As both parties look to stamp their authority on the policy agenda, it will be vital for businesses and organisations to not just keep abreast of what is happening with the Westminster village but ensure they are having their voices heard in the debate.
Whilst the major parties in England face significant communications challenges ahead of the next election, it is a prime opportunity for businesses to communicate their point of view on the policies and proposals being put forward to the country.