2024 – General Election – Week 2

Week 2

Welcome to JBP’s weekly 2024 General Election update. Each Friday, we’ll give you a rundown of the latest updates. See below for: 
  • An overview of the week that has been
  • An update on polling
  • Key moments of the week and upcoming dates
  • Who’s who in Labour back office
  • The latest gossip from Westminster
  • And our pick of the week’s news stories 

Retirements, Rejections and National Service

It has been a bumpy start for both major campaigns over the last seven days, with both major parties facing a slew of retirement announcements from senior MPs. Levelling-Up Secretary of State Michael Gove announced his resignation from Parliament in a letter on Friday night leaving after nearly 20 years as the MP for Surrey Heath, and Public Health Minister and former leadership contender Dame Andrea Leadsom also announced her resignation in a letter later on Friday evening. 

Labour too has had a number of resignations over the bank holiday weekend, with 11 sitting MPs announcing that they would not be contesting the upcoming election. This includes Shadow Music Minister Barbara Keeley and Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party (and husband of Deputy National Campaign Coordinator Ellie Reeves MP) Jon Cryer. 

However, outside of MP resignations, what is controlling the news agenda is former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn standing as an independent MP, and the ongoing dispute over whether Diane Abbott will be allowed to stand again on a Labour ticket. Diane Abbott has been readmitted as a member of the Parliamentary Labour Party following a lengthy internal investigation into controversial comments she made in The Observer in April 2023. While the question of whether Diane Abbott will be allowed to stand as a Labour candidate at the election is ongoing at the time of writing, it is certain to dominate headlines for days to come. 

The election campaign has seen its first three headline policy announcements from the Conservative Party with a pledge to reintroduce a form of national service, creating the pensions ‘triple lock plus’, and replacing “under-performing” degrees with 100,000 apprenticeships. Both policy announcements have been received with mixed results, with a general consensus that they are aimed at traditional Conservative voters who may be considering switching to Reform. 

The Labour Party is yet to release any policies for the election campaign, which aligns with general expectations that Sir Keir Starmer will run a ‘policy light campaign’. This follows the campaign strategy used by former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in 2020, based on the premise that when a party has a large lead in the polls, policies are more likely to lose votes than win them. As such, all eyes will be on the Labour Party’s manifesto release in a few weeks to finally see some of the policy details. 

Polling update

The polls have shown minimal movement in the last week, with all parties maintaining consistent polling positions, except for Labour, which has increased from 44% to 45%. As such, we do not anticipate any changes to our previous seat breakdown. Our seat breakdown is sourced from Electoral Calculus, and wider polling data from the BBC. 

It’s interesting to note that while polling on the specific policies has not been publicly released, a poll released on Thursday found that the Green Party is now polling higher than the Conservatives among under-50-year-olds, which provides an indication of the public’s view. 

Key moments of the week

  • Sir Ed Davey made a splash while paddleboarding with Tim Farron in the Lake District. The Liberal Democrat leader fell into the lake five times while trying to record a press media clip. Given that Davey has pulled similar stunts since then, including taking multiple turns on a waterslide with journalists, it is clear that the Liberal Democrat strategy is to just try and secure as much traction as possible on social media.
  • The Conservative Party’s National Service policy proposal has dominated the headlines and risks becoming the main talking point for the Party over the rest of the campaign.
  • Diane Abbott accuses Keir Starmer of ‘culling left-wingers’ as questions over whether she will be able to stand continue. Other left-wing Labour MPs and activists are barred from standing, such as MP for Brighton Kempton Lloyd Russell-Moyle and economist Faiza Shaheen.
  • Reform Honorary President Nigel Farage challenged Rishi Sunak to a debate on immigration policy. Rishi Sunak has since declined the invitation.


Looking ahead ITV has confirmed that they will host the first debate of this election on Tuesday, 4 June at 9pm. The hour-long programme titled ‘Sunak v Starmer: The ITV Debate’ will be moderated by presented Julie Etchingham who also hosted the debates in 2015, 2017 and 2019. While other broadcasters have not announced any planned election debates, it is expected that ITV is also planning a multi-party debate with the other party leaders in the coming weeks. 

Who’s who in Labour's back office

With a Labour Government etching closer, this section will introduce you to the people who are shaping the future of Labour behind the scenes. 

This week, we take a look at Deborah Mattinson. 

Deborah Mattison is Sir Keir Starmer’s Director of Strategy, with prime responsibility for ensuring that the so-called ‘Red Wall’ seats return to Labour’s hands in a few weeks’ time. Appointed in 2021, she plays a crucial role in shaping the party’s approach to the upcoming general election and will be tasked with ensuring that a future Labour government does everything it can to stay in power. 

Mattison is a familiar face in Labour Party circles, having previously advised Labour leaders including Sir Tony Blair, John Smith, and Neil Kinnock. She also served as the chief pollster for Gordon Brown during his tenure as both Chancellor and Prime Minister. With a deep understanding of voter behaviour, she literally wrote the book on why Labour lost the Red Wall in the 2019 election. Titled “Beyond the Red Wall: Why Labour Lost, How the Conservatives Won and What Will Happen Next?”, it provided a very public foreshadowing of Labour’s election strategy to date. 

Mattison’s influence is clear in Labour’s current policies, particularly those that place a strong emphasis on green initiatives and social equity. This aligns with her aim to ensure Labour resonates with the values of the diverse UK-wide voter base while trying to regain the trust of disaffected traditional Labour voters. However, her strategic direction has not been entirely smooth sailing, as it has at times been a point of contention within the party, especially as it moves closer to the centre-ground rather than the traditional ‘centre-left’ policy area. However given that Mattison is a force to be reckoned with it is no surprise that the direction she set has been followed out. 

The stories that don’t make the papers

We have our ears to the ground to uncover gossip from the campaign trail. The below is what we have picked up from our network this week. 

  • The Labour candidate for South East Cornwall has been parachuted into the seat and is putting local noses out of joint after claiming to live in a village she has never resided in. 
  • We understand that Rishi Sunak’s plans for National Service are a fusion of a report by the think tank Onward (despite the fact that Onward Director and former Financial Times journalist Sebastian Payne has been repeatedly denied a safe Conservative seat) and his own experience at Winchester College. 
  • Despite the general election, Sue Gray and Keir Starmer’s team have been tasked with preparing a strong ‘first 100 days’ programme that is focused on delivering immediate outcomes. 
  • There are still over 100 Conservative candidates that need to be selected. The Conservative Candidates team are being criticised for seeming unprepared with many Tory candidates frustrated by the lack of time they have to campaign for their seats. 

Press and media releases

Here is a snapshot of the articles the JBP team have found interesting this week. 

About Us

BP is a national communications consultancy specialising in communications and political engagement. Our team consists of experienced consultants and well-connected political advisors – our campaigns are always guided by quality political insight into your priorities and how they translate to the current political and regulatory environment.

Please get in touch at any time with us at publicaffairs@jbp.co.uk to discuss your communications needs.

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