In a wobbly start for both the main political parties, both Labour and the Conservatives have begun their campaigns by prioritising courting the business vote and focussing on the economy.
On Monday, Labour launched its business manifesto and at the same time placed an ad in the Financial Times highlighting the risks to business of a potential referendum and Brexit from the EU. The plan spectacularly backfired when a number of the business leaders named came out denouncing any association with the Labour party and its policies. This morning’s Telegraph letter, with signatories such as Duncan Bannatyne and Stuart Rose saying that a Labour government could harm the economic recovery, will not make light reading either for those at Labour Party HQ.
Only 24 hours after their business offensive, Labour announced plans to effectively cut the time you can be employed on a zero-hours contract to 12 weeks (from the previous 12 months). Popular with voters? Undoubtedly. Popular with business? Unlikely. They may be trying to be all things to all people. But Labour clearly still have a mountain to climb if they are going win over the business vote in just 35 days.
The Conservatives too got off to a shaky start. Despite a slew of strong numbers on the economy and their business backers coming good in the Telegraph, Cameron’s suggestion that every family would pay £3,000 under Labour was quickly refuted by the widely respected Institute for Fiscal Studies calling it “unhelpful and of little value”.
Meanwhile, the Lib Dems are sticking with their campaigning on mental health, launching their Manifesto for the Mind, with the aim of preventing discrimination against those who suffer from mental health. As one of their red lines for any coalition negotiation it’s good to see mental health getting a much needed boost.
Finally, yesterday saw the launch of Plaid Cymru’s manifesto. When first launched, the Twitterati were distracted by the stock imagery (with watermark still included) and poor graphic design skills, rather than the content, but this was sharply corrected. Key pledges from Leanne Wood’s party include the Living Wage for all employees, scrapping the Bedroom Tax and Trident, and renationalising the railways. And establishing a national Welsh cricket team that will be able to compete at ICC level. If you don’t ask…