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Can ‘Things Only Get Better’ between Labour and Business?

While the Conservative Party has traditionally been characterised as the party of business, Keir Starmer’s Labour Party has made an active effort to shift this narrative.

Meghan Oliver Director 12/06/2024

While the Conservative Party has traditionally been characterised as the party of business, Keir Starmer’s Labour Party has made an active effort to shift this narrative.

This had generated slow and steady progress, yet Labour’s overtures to the business community have significantly ramped up in the last six months. So much so that Labour’s recent Business Day with Rachel Reeves – the Shadow Chancellor – apparently sold out in minutes. But is the dial actually shifting on the relationship between Labour and business?

Labour opens a record lead over Tories
Savanta’s most recent Business Tracker, which gathered the views of small, medium and large businesses, indicates a firm ‘yes’.

The Labour Party holds a record 17-point lead over the Conservatives among UK businesses, in the first Savanta Business Tracker undertaken since the general election was announced.

The most recent polling, where 1,000 business decision makers were asked which party would be ‘best for business in the UK’ showed Labour on 49%, and the Conservatives on 32%, the biggest gap Savanta has ever recorded.

But it is not a done deal for Labour
Yet this does not mean it’s a done deal for Labour. Notably, those running the UK’s smallest businesses were less certain on an ideal outcome. Over one quarter of sole traders (29%) and those in micro-businesses (27%) said they ‘don’t know’ what the ideal outcome would be. This demonstrates for both Labour and Tory strategists that there is room for more convincing.

This pattern holds true among leadership candidates as well. Labour leader Keir Starmer (46%) has extended his lead over Rishi Sunak (31%) to 15 points among UK business leaders. However, Labour’s lead narrows as businesses increase in size – while nearly half (48%) of medium and large businesses say Keir Starmer would be best for business in the UK, 40% also say the same of Rishi Sunak.

This shows that while attitudes have significantly shifted in favour of Labour, there are still lingering concerns among larger businesses.

Business plan for a Labour government
Despite this, when asked what election outcome would be best for UK businesses, half (48%) of business leaders say either a majority Labour government or Labour as the largest party, compared to three in ten (31%) who say a Conservative majority or the Conservatives as the largest party.

Indeed, perhaps most telling of business attitudes, is the belief that a Labour government will be next in power. Over two thirds of medium and large businesses have either started to make changes for a Labour government (31%) or anticipate they will be doing so soon (39%).

While much can change over the next month, and there are lots of campaigns to be fought, there is no doubt that Labour has made a positive impression on UK businesses.

At Savanta we will be tracking business opinion throughout the election campaign, as well as providing our commentary and analysis on whether what businesses want matches up to how the electorate votes.

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