Tag Archives: labour

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. 


gk - How is the policy and regulatory environment for rail changing_

Party conference 2023

As the annual conference season draws to a close, possibly the last before a general election next year, the main political parties will be reflecting on the success or otherwise of the Manchester and Liverpool gatherings. Both conferences were attended by our political advisers, who reflect on Conservative and Labour conference below.

As with past conferences, the measure of success differs, this was Rishi Sunak’s first as Tory leader, a more stable but still divided party. Just a year ago Liz Truss led a chaotic prelude to her short time in No10 and this year’s collection of Nigel Farage (as journalist) and long awaited HS2 announcement wasn’t the best backdrop as the Prime Minister attempted to cast his leadership as a force for change. Contrast Liverpool and the balance of a Labour party consistently ahead in the polls, with a more united and coherent party than for the past decade – a gathering of Labour activists who were at pains not to be carried too high on the prospect of government.

In a change to the usual order, the Conservative’s met first. The ongoing saga of will they, won’t they with HS2 didn’t help Rishi Sunak’s first conference as party leader. While the Prime Minister’s team struggled to get a hold of the narrative over the three days in Manchester, the former leader and likely leadership hopeful, Liz Truss and Suella Braverman, were quick to try and seize the agenda. Where the party truly seemed united was on the importance of support for climate action, and this was reflected in the sheer number of well-attended fringe events giving serious attention to how the UK can credibly retain its status as a climate leader. The Conservatives, despite recent announcements seemingly backing away from climate policy, understand that this remains a key vote-winner. Cobbling together a sell-able vision for the climate to the electorate could be make-or-break for the party in any upcoming election.

Sunak’s conference speech, his most important as leader saw the Prime Minister attempt to create some separation between his premiership and what he referred to as the previous “30 years of a political system which incentivises the easy decision, not the right one”. This will be a tough balancing act in the months ahead of the upcoming election. The 30-years Sunak references encompasses not only former Labour leaders Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, but no fewer than five Conservative Prime Ministers. The key question going into an election year will be whether Sunak can create that separation and be given the opportunity to push forward with his ambitious reforms to education, or whether he will be rejected by the electorate as more of the same.

Keir Starmer’s speech embodied Labour conference in Liverpool this week. A leader and a party more at home with its values and a confident, clear, coherent, even hopeful message about Britain’s future – a decade of national renewal. The party wanted a clean conference, a solid platform speaking to business leaders and the wider public, the opportunity now to project Keir Starmer’s message for the country which faced down the shame of the Corbyn-era and proudly bound past Labour success with a party of service, building a new country over the next decade and beyond. The test now is for the party to successfully project the same confidence beyond Liverpool, and Westminster, to the country at large.