Josh Grimstone: Businesses should jump on the Tory tidal wave
Rather than putting their political engagement on hold for the general election, companies might do well to start the relationship building early.
You know you’ve had a bad night in the local elections when your morning media rebuttal line contains the words “it wasn’t a total wipe-out”. After a dismal night across all parts of the United Kingdom and with more results yet to be declared, Labour has become first opposition on record to lose seats in three local elections in a row.
The Labour leadership may have the results in the Manchester and Liverpool mayoralties as teetering fence posts to cling to in this brewing political storm. But a tornado is coming on June 8th and all the signs point to the Labour Party facing devastation.
Having worked in the party press office for the Conservatives over the last 5 years, most recently as head of broadcasting, the Conservative response this morning can be characterised by two words “manage expectations”. What is striking about the Conservative response to the local elections – where the Party has gained over a hundred seats, bagged the West of England Mayoralty, look good in Cambridgeshire, and are on course to secure the best performance for a governing party since 1974 – is the coolness and discipline of the reaction.
We’ve seen ministers and trusted backbench MPs on broadcast media sticking rigidly to the line that this was a solid night, but local election results don’t necessarily translate into General Election votes. And that now represents the biggest fear for the Tories, will their massive poll leads discourage voters from turning out on June 8? And will their “coalition of chaos” line convince voters when it looks a lot less persuasive than in 2015 when there was a real possibility of a hung parliament?
For the Lib Dems, one question springs to mind. Where was the tide? Having failed to make gains in their target area of Somerset and patchy results elsewhere, their performance points towards a mediocre performance in the General Election. The Tories look set to retain their dominance in the South West of England, and with almost 4 million UKIP votes up for grab across the country and Paul Nuttall’s party so far failing to defend a single seat in the local elections, the Conservatives will be quietly confident in those strongly Leave voting areas. It’s the Remain voting seats in London represent the Lib Dems’ best chance of gains in 4 weeks’ time.
All of this points towards clever timing from Team May to call a snap general election. Labour in crisis, UKIP facing extinction, and the Lib Dems not yet properly mobilised. Of course, local elections don’t necessarily provide a weather vane of what is to come, but June 8 looks set to be a Tory tidal wave sweeping across vast swathes of the country.
For businesses putting their political engagement on hold for the General Election, they might do well to start the relationship building early. The old adage “no seat is a safe seat” looks set to feature in this election. And with a new generation of Tory candidates, including former special advisers and former MPs set to be elected and re-elected, now is the time to reach out in what looks set to be the biggest Tory landslide since the Thatcher Government in 1983.
Josh Grimstone is an account director at Westbourne Communcations. This article was first published on the Westbourne website.