The General Election: what happens next

The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced the date of the election. On 4 July, the country goes to the polls to choose the next Government. 

We spoke to Alice Campbell, head of public affairs at tech industry body techUK, to discuss what it means.

What happens now and what should tech firms do? 

“From this point on, all MPs will be very focused on campaigning and will have little to no time for anything else. In addition, we are now in a pre-election period of sensitivity which is observed by the civil service, non-departmental public bodies and other arm’s lengths bodies, which means many political and policy decisions are often postponed until the new Government is in place. This means many policy and legislative programmes grind to a halt, although policy development will still be happening but behind closed doors. 

“However, for tech firms, this doesn’t mean public affairs has to stop. Instead, firms should focus on which new MPs might gain a seat and seek out those who may have the right background, skills or experience to understand and support your business. Some of these new MPs may well end up going straight into junior ministerial roles. 

“What’s more, it is always worth businesses getting to know their local MP, so it may be worth extending the opportunity to visit your premises to both the sitting MP and the PPCs for the main opposition parties in the area. There are lots of highly contested seats so it’s worth engaging with all sides of the political spectrum.”  

“More broadly, firms will need to try and make sense of all the noise and prepare for what comes next whether a Labour or Conservative Government.  And whichever political party ends up in power, it will be a very different looking Parliament, with such a high turnover of MPs. It’s worth keeping in mind that politics is cyclical. Just because a Labour government seems likely now, it doesn’t mean we won’t have another Conversative government next time.”

How can firms prepare for the election and the immediate period after it? 

“The next six weeks will be relatively quiet for the reasons I mentioned above, so firms should use this time to plan for what comes after. A lot of this comes down to increasing understanding. What asks will firms have of a new government? What key messages will they want to land in the first few weeks and months? Any new government is going to be time and money poor, so what’s your firm’s elevator pitch for how your firm can support the government? Are there insights you can share that help provide new data on a problem the government wants to solve? In terms of some practicalities, firms can make sure their briefing notes prepped and events are provisionally planned and letters are ready to go on 5thJuly. 

“In addition, internal staff should feedback relevant manifesto commitments that are likely to impact their business or organisation and ensure every knows the latest – internal communications can sometimes be as important as external positions during times like this”

What do you expect from a potential Labour government in terms of its approach to technology policy and the sector? 

“We’re still waiting on a lot of detail, so it’s difficult to say with any confidence. However, now the election has been called, we hope to see more detail emerge in the coming weeks. Largely, though, we expect tech to be a positive topic during the election from all parties, particularly when thinking of it as an enabler for efficiencyin government and the economy.

“But there are certainly areas where there are some risks. For instance, there may be some sensitivities in areas such as workers’rights. However, with all these types of issues, it’s also an opportunity for firms to share their knowledge and experience on how things currently work and share examples if they have them.” 

Finally, any advice for tech firms for the next few weeks and months? 

“It’s important for tech firms to remember that there is politics and then there is also the day-to-day workings of policy.  Separating the two is important. All the parties will make a lot of statements in the coming weeks, which will be very politically driven and may create headlines. However, tech businesses should remember that while that may drive votes, it is separate what might become policy and legislation. 

“So, whatever policy announcements we see over the next few weeks, it’s important to calmly and rationally analyse these, and how realistic they may or may not be. It’s best not to be overly confident or complacent about what we’ll hear before July 4.”

techUK is providing a General Election Hub with the latest election developments. See here for more information