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Vive la Rayner-lution, businesses declare

UK businesses back Rayner despite Conservative attack ads criticising her ‘French-Union style’ New Deal for Working People, finds new Savanta poll.

George Singleton Senior Consultant 02/07/2024

Renditions of La Marseillaise are hardly in short supply as the knockout stages of the Euros rumble on, but it was a surprise to encounter the French national anthem in a clip of a moustachioed, bereted Angela Rayner on the Conservative Party’s X feed last week. This clip is the latest attempt to paint Rayner as radically anti-business and dissuade voters from handing Labour carte blanche on polling day.

Rayner has been steadfast in her commitment to a ‘transformative’ New Deal for Working People. Should election day bring the historic victory for Labour that recent Savanta polling suggests, the party will introduce a major Employment Rights Bill within one hundred days of entering office. This New Deal, as Rayner details in the clip, includes plans to ban exploitative zero-hours contracts and outlaw ‘fire and rehire’ practices.

The Conservative Party seems to think that this menu of measures is one that businesses will find deeply unpalatable. “You don’t know what’s coming”, warns the video’s red-tape-coloured caption, in all caps. Or, as a local party group puts it, less suggestively: “don’t surrender to Angela Rayner’s French-Union style laws”.

Businesses, however, have largely greeted this ‘French Union’ attack line with a Gallic shrug. New Savanta polling reveals Rayner is a comparatively popular figure among UK business decision-makers, despite the transformative nature of her plans. Additionally, relatively few business decision-makers are concerned about her bold reforms, compared to other policy areas.

Rayner popular amongst UK Businesses

According to Savanta’s monthly Business Tracker, which surveys 1,000 UK businesses, 34% of decision-makers prefer Rayner as Deputy Prime Minister compared to 17% who prefer the incumbent Oliver Dowden.

While this polling finds most Labour figures to be more popular than their Conservative counterparts, it is striking that Rayner holds such a commanding lead over Dowden.

The difference between Rayner and Dowden is starker than between any other competing pair of Labour and Conservative figures, with Rayner’s 17-point lead eclipsing even Starmer’s lead over Sunak.

Businesses unconcerned with workers’ rights in the event of a Labour majority

Business decision-makers seem to be relatively relaxed about Rayner’s bold plans for labour market reform. Just half of businesses (51%) express concerns about plans relating to workers’ rights in the event of a Labour majority. Relative to other policy areas, this is not something that businesses seem to be particularly worried about.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride is quoted in City AM as saying that Angela Rayner has “small businesses in her crosshairs”, with the prospect of a working conditions watchdog with “real teeth”. Our polling suggests that businesses do not recognise this picture, with decision-makers in small businesses (1–249 employees) significantly more likely than those in medium and large businesses (250+ employees) to say that they are not concerned about the prospect of a Labour majority for workers’ rights (46% and 37% respectively).

The above chart does show, however, that Keir Starmer’s party will need to continue to work to win over business leaders on taxation, with over two thirds (69%) of businesses concerned about Labour’s plans. Even amongst those who think a Labour Government would be the best outcome for the UK economy, 59% would be concerned about taxation as a policy area under a Labour majority.

This poll is the final instalment of Savanta’s Business Tracker before election day. Whatever the election’s outcome, we will find ourselves in a changed business environment. Be prepared with up-to-date insights from the Savanta UK Business Tracker. Find out more about the Savanta Business Tracker here.