General Election: Manifesto moments

Head of Public Affairs, Craig Lawton, looks ahead to the release of party manifestos. 10th June 2024


With less than four weeks to go until polling day on 4th July, many of the main political parties are releasing their General Election manifestos throughout this week.


What to expect

For parties that wish to be in charge- namely the Conservatives and Labour- this is the time to flesh out those media statements and further demonstrate that they have a plan to govern. For parties looking to build their support and increase their MPs, now is the time to show how they can offer an alternative.

However, this time is not without its pitfalls.

We only need to look back to the Conservative manifesto in 2017 to see how things can go wrong.

Riding high in the polls at the time, Theresa May and her team saw an opportunity to include a free vote on fox hunting and changes to social care funding in their manifesto. Within a matter of days, a 21 point lead in the polls had crumbled and led ultimately to the Conservative majority being lost.

With a similar lead at the moment, Keir Starmer and his team will need to ensure they do not commit the same mistakes. Instead, they must build on the commitments they have made to date in their six “steps to change.”

However, even before the formal launch, Labour appear to have stumbled as one of their major supporters- Unite the Union- are reportedly refusing to back the Labour manifesto as they feel it does not go far enough to support the rights of workers in oil and gas industry.

With numerous announcements over the last few weeks, the main focus on the Conservative manifesto will surely be costings. It has already been a campaigning point from Labour as they question how the Conservatives will pay for their many commitments.

Having been in power for the last 14 years, branding themselves as the party of fiscal responsibility, and with Rishi Sunak’s experience from the financial world; anything less than a fully costed and independently verified manifesto will surely be an own goal from the Conservatives.


Policies and commitments

As manifestos are release, we can expect more detail from Labour on their commitment to set up Great British Energy. Whilst suggesting this will cut energy bills, improve energy security and provide clean energy, to date all we really know is that it will be paid for from “a windfall tax on oil and gas giants.”

Renewable energy developers and providers- as well as the industry’s many supply chain companies- will however be expecting more detail, as will those “oil and gas giants”, when planning future investment and training plans.

Those wanting full details of grid plans, feed in tariffs, and potential future renewable energy leasing rounds may well be left disappointed however, as manifestos are usually a signal to the electorate of what can be expected, and not an update to industry. Instead, those conversations should continue to take place after the election in a similar way to those that have been taking place between Keir Starmer’s Shadow Cabinet and industry representatives over recent months.

Similarly, Rishi Sunak’s plan for a strong economy includes extending the energy price guarantee until 2024 which he states will keep “typical household bills to £2,500.”

It is unlikely we will get a full breakdown of their plans for how the UK’s energy supply will be made up or on their long-term plans for achieving Net Zero. However, industry and consumers alike will expect a plan that extends beyond 2024 when the manifesto is published.


Other party manifestos

For smaller parties, those with a devolved focus, and single issue parties, the next few weeks provides them with an opportunity to set out their stall for future campaigning. For the Lib Dems and Reform, this will likely include holding the next UK Government to account and increasing their levels of support across the country, whilst for Plaid Cymru and the SNP they will have one eye on how they can use this election as a spring-board in to the next Senedd and Scottish Parliament elections respectively.

Whilst coalitions look less likely than in previous years, some parties may still develop their manifestos with a view to building alliances and agreements with the UK Government. Many political parties are now committed to Net Zero, therefore a commitment like this may not be enough to find meaningful agreement, how and when Net Zero is achieved could well be, as could how it is paid for.

Over the next few days, we will learn a lot more about each party’s plans, commitments, and expectations. However, the winning party will go on to develop their policies further- first for the State Opening of Parliament on 17th July and then throughout the Parliamentary term- it will be crucial that organisations continue to engage with parties well after manifestos are published. This will ensure that key policies and commitments are understood, developed, and scrutinised.


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