Category Archives: Labour

Women and Health – Why women are such an important demographic for Labour

GK Adviser Noureen Ahmed reflects on the Government’s priorities in its Women’s Health Strategy and explores the challenges Labour can expect to face in the women’s and wider health space should the party form the next government.

At the start of 2024, Health Secretary Victoria Atkins outlined her top priorities for 2024 under the Women’s Health Strategy, which came into effect two years ago. The Strategy was welcomed by the sector, due to the Government demonstrating its commitment to improving care and treatment for women. Women are routinely under-represented, particularly when it comes to clinical trials; this hinders our understanding on how a number of health problems such as cancer, endometriosis, and other gynaecological conditions impact women from a wide range of backgrounds. As women make up around 51 per cent of the population, tackling these obstacles is vital to ensuring improved outcomes for women’s health.

Under the Government’s priorities for women’s health this year, there are several initiatives expected to be implemented. These include plans to expand women’s health hubs, bolster pre- and post-natal care as well as improve support for vulnerable women. The Government has also committed to more funding for research, which would look into how women are represented in medical research.

Nevertheless, given how close we are to the next General Election (likely in October or November of this year), questions have been raised on whether such policies will actually be enacted over the coming months.

The priorities for 2024 came as a result of a Government consultation which aimed to learn more about women’s health issues, and to better understand women’s experiences of the healthcare system. The call for evidence received over 100,000 responses and demonstrated a clear consensus that health services at present fail to meet women’s day to day needs. The Women’s Health Strategy has been deemed ambitious, given it aims to “radically improve the way in which the health and care system engages and listens to all women and girls.” For the Government, the Strategy is much needed and will form “the next step on the journey to reset the dial on women’s health.”

The Labour Party has stressed its ambition to prioritise women’s health should it come into power, as well as to ensure all women – regardless of their background – have access to better quality care. In addition to its pledge to invest in women’s health services, Labour also confirmed its plans to increase access to reproductive healthcare, address gender inequalities in healthcare settings, and ensure women’s health services are equipped with the vital staff and resources needed.

As the likelihood of a Labour Government increases in the run up to the next General Election, Labour faces the challenge of demonstrating how it will ‘revive’ the NHS, with the health service having been chronically stretched and underfunded over the past decade. At present, the NHS faces a raft of issues related to recruitment, staff pay, industrial action and waiting lists which remains stubbornly high – prompting more people to take out private medical insurance. Should Labour come into power, the party will be undertaking a huge task to alleviate the crisis but will be limited in terms of how much substantial progress can be made by financial constraints.

Women make up a significant proportion of the population and so, inevitably, their choices greatly influence election outcomes. For Labour in particular, women’s votes will be essential if it wants to secure an electoral majority. It is imperative that the party works to engage effectively with women and ensure their concerns and aspirations for women’s healthcare are listened to and used to develop and implement effective policy.

GK Strategy are experts in the health policy landscape. Get in touch with if you’d like to hear more from our consultants.

Labour and Gender Equality: A Radical Agenda or All Talk?

Following International Women’s Day earlier in March, GK Adviser Rebecca McMahon looks at what an incoming Labour Government could mean for women’s equality.

Labour’s ambitious women’s equality agenda is one to watch

If the Labour Party wins the upcoming General Election, Rachel Reeves will become the UK’s first female Chancellor of the Exchequer and Angela Rayner is set to become the first female Deputy Prime Minister. The number of women in the current Parliamentary Labour Party is at an all-time high of 52.7% and given the number of prospective parliamentary candidates in seats likely to swing to Labour, the number is likely to remain high.

The party has been accused of hollowing out promises related to more radical policies about climate change and workers’ rights. However, it appears the party remains committed to delivering on its ambitious roster of pledges on women’s equality. At the 2023 Labour Party Conference, Rayner announced her intention to amend the Equalities Act to introduce a legal duty for employers to have sexual harassment prevention measures in place. In Rayner’s rallying speech, she combined a commitment to women’s safety with a promise to make their working lives fairer. Measures included toughening sentences for perpetrators of rape and stalking and halving the levels of violence against women and girls. A crackdown on unfair pay and a promise to “empower women entrepreneurs” was also included.

Translating virtuous ideas on empowerment into robust policy is a difficult process. However, the presence of key female decision-makers in the shadow cabinet demonstrates that Labour is not neglecting the importance of senior women for formulating representative policy. Perhaps this will set a precedent for the party to elect a woman to the top spot for the first time (one area in which the Conservatives currently top the tables, 3-0!).

Council Tax Reform

Reflections on the Future of Council Tax

GK Associate Hugo Tuckett assesses the likelihood of council tax reform amid rising concern about local authority financial resilience.

Is council tax reform on the horizon?

Amid rising bankruptcies in recent years, and growing concern about the sustainability of council finances, funding mechanisms for local authorities – and particularly council tax – are attracting growing political scrutiny.

In December 2023, the Local Government Association reported that almost one in five council leaders and chief executives it surveyed think it is very or fairly likely that they will need to issue a Section 114 notice this year or next due to a lack of funding. A Section 114 notice is issued by a council’s finance officer if they believe the council’s expenditure will exceed the resources it has available. Eleven Section 114 notices have been issued since 2018, with only five issued in the 30 years prior.

Given that council tax receipts now make up over half of local authority spending power (56.9% in 2023-24 compared to 49.1% in 2015-16), ensuring the council tax regime is operating effectively is critical to the long-term sustainability of local authority finances.

The Levelling Up Committee recently made a series of recommendations to the Government on council tax reform. In its report, the Committee reiterated its previous conclusions about the “unfairness and outdatedness of the council tax regime”.

The Government has since said it has no plans to conduct a revaluation of council tax bands (the Committee’s key recommendation) as, amongst other factors, “it would particularly risk those on a lower income, including pensioners, who have seen their homes appreciate in value”.

Here is the focal point of political discourse. A Conservative Government, aware that (according to recent YouGov polling) the Party is now the most popular only among the over-70s, will be aggrieved to conduct a revaluation of property bands which would hit the pockets of its core voter base. A Labour government on the other hand, with traditionally greater allegiances to younger, non-home owning voters and those on lower incomes could take a fresh look at this issue. One option likely to be under consideration is the introduction of new, higher bands of council tax.

Given the Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves, has ruled out numerous tax rises ahead of the upcoming General Election, council tax reform represents one revenue-raising lever still available to her. While the details of any potential reform are still unknown, it is a near certainty that the council tax regime will only grow in political salience in the years ahead.

Internal strife muddying the waters for both the Conservatives and Labour

GK Point of View – View from Westminster

GK Associate, Joshua Owolabi, assesses Rishi Sunak and Keir Stramer’s recent struggles with rogue MPs. 

Internal strife muddying the waters for both the Conservatives and Labour 

Former Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, joked frequently about the frenetic pace at which politics could move. Over his long career, he became well-acquainted with the turbulence that intra-party politicking could bring. Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak may be able to relate. Clearly, the last few weeks have been taxing for them both as they struggle to deal with internal conflicts. 

There has been scant opportunity for Starmer to enjoy the emphatic byelection result in Wellingborough, where the Labour Party overturned a Conservative majority of over 18,000 votes. It doesn’t matter that only a fortnight ago Starmer led his party to its largest swing in a byelection since 1994. Since then, the Labour Party has needed to clamp down on grassroots dissent over the decision to withdraw support for its Rochdale byelection candidate, Azhar Ali. Days later, Starmer was scrambling to avoid a rebellion and the potential resignation of Shadow Ministers, after the SNP brought forward an opposition day motion on the war in Gaza. 

The Prime Minister has been blindsided yet again by some of the more outspoken Tory MPs. Lee Anderson, who had been Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party as recently as January, had the whip suspended following his incendiary remarks about the Mayor of London. Various Tory MPs have either defended or criticised Anderson since his outburst. Sunak has attempted to placate both sides, calling Anderson’s comments ‘wrong’ while also refusing to label them as ‘Islamophobic’.  

However, Anderson doubling down on the comments has left Sunak with a problem to solve. Can he deal with the Anderson situation in a way that keeps the right-wing of his party happy, but also heeds the calls from ‘One Nation’ MPs for Anderson to be disciplined? Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, the answer to that question seems obvious.  

Meanwhile. a speech from Sunak’s predecessor elicited the response “err… who is Liz Truss?” from a perplexed American audience at a conservative political conference in Maryland. Despite the criticism that Truss’ speech has received, Sunak will be concerned by her decision to lean into conspiracy theories about the ‘deep state’ and her call for Nigel Farage to rejoin the Party. Along with the Lee Anderson headlines, it highlights the way in which Sunak is struggling to control the narrative.  

As Tory factions battle each other for control after the election and the Labour leadership works to limit self-inflicted wounds before it, the approaching Spring Budget hasn’t received much attention. Sunak, Starmer, Hunt and Reeves will need their MPs to get back on message as they set out their economic visions. They’ll be hoping that the infighting of February gives way to a renewed focus on policy in March. 


The Fallout from the Horizon Scandal

GK Point of View – The Fallout from the Horizon Scandal

GK Adviser Rebecca McMahon assesses the potential impact of the Horizon scandal on the Labour Party’s procurement plans.  

How will the Horizon Scandal influence Labour policy? 

The renewed focus on the Post Office’s procurement of Fujitsu’s Horizon software has brought to light procurement issues which are pertinent to the Labour Party. 

Labour has already committed to increasing oversight of government procurement – Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves has proposed a “covid corruption commissioner” watchdog to recover taxpayer money lost due to the Government’s VIP “fast lane” for contract delivery during the pandemic. Evidently, the Party is keen on a system where both the Government and individual suppliers are held to greater account. The Horizon scandal only adds to its case. 

The Party is not just set on preventing bad outcomes from government procurement; they are also aiming to use it as an actively positive instrument, with Deputy Leader Angela Rayner placing an emphasis on “social and environmental factors”.  

She also urged the Government to ensure that “contracts do not always automatically go offshore” and instead are awarded “to businesses creating local jobs, skills and training”. Labour has also said it would “make social value mandatory in public contract design”, introducing measures to promote “decent work” and strengthen supply chains. 

Labour to lean on procurement to digitalise services? 

As well as encouraging more ethical procurement, Labour is also keen to use procurement to further digitalise public services. This is especially true of the NHS, where key figures like Wes Streeting, Shadow Health Secretary, have been vocal about the need to invest in innovative health technologies and make more effective use of health data. 

However, in the wake of the Horizon controversy, any efforts to radically digitalise the NHS will be caveated by important questions about accountability. 

Whether or not digitalisation will be a quick fix for the UK’s declining health provision, it is likely to be a key area for procurement under a Labour government. UK healthtech has expanded nine-fold since 2016, and the sector’s future could be bright under a future Starmer government. 


The Early Years Conundrum

GK Point of View – The Early Years Conundrum

GK Adviser Felix Griffin assesses the potential battle lines between Labour and the Conservatives in the early years sector ahead of the General Election. 

A Political Football in the Education Arena 

In the ever-evolving education landscape, early years policy has found itself thrust into the centre of a complex and highly contested arena. Incrementally, the situation has worsened over the years, with the ‘cost of living’ crisis and systemic staff recruitment and retention issues taking their toll. Early years policy is now a political football, bouncing between competing ideologies and vested interests. 

There are now clear division lines between Labour and the Conservatives. Labour appears staunchly focused on prioritising comprehensive child development, emphasising a holistic and nurturing approach to early education. On the other side, the Conservatives have pivoted towards viewing the early years as a means of getting parents back to work, shaping their policies with a lens primarily focused on economic productivity. 

With the Conservatives using free childcare as a ‘vote winner’, as previous governments have done, there is concern that the implementation failures that have plagued the sector for so long will persist. 

As the prospect of Labour taking the reins becomes increasingly likely, it stands at a crossroad. The Party is confronted with the pressing decision of whether to persist with a clearly broken framework, risking further erosion of the quality of early childhood education, or opting for the challenging path of withdrawing the current ‘free childcare’ system, potentially facing backlash from parents and stakeholders.  

However, amidst this dilemma, there is a transformative opportunity – to reform the existing system comprehensively. By engaging in strategic overhauls and policy adjustments, informed by its ‘major’ review of the early years sector, Labour has the chance to steer the course towards a more effective, equitable, and responsive early years education system, ensuring a brighter future for the nation’s youngest minds.