2024 – General Election – Week 3

Week 3

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 

Guess Who’s Back…

Both major campaigns were somewhat overshadowed this week by Monday’s major announcement that veteran Eurosceptic Nigel Farage will be making a return to frontline politics to lead Reform UK. In an emergency press conference held in Westminster, Farage announced that he would take over party leadership from Richard Tice and stand for election in Clacton, just days after ruling himself out of the ballot.

Polling experts, such as Sir John Curtice, have said that the shock announcement is a significant blow for the Conservatives, as Reform may now be a more attractive proposition for Brexit-supporting Tory voters. Crucially, both Tice and Farage have repeatedly ruled out any form of 2019-esque deal with Conservatives. Then, the Brexit Party, Reform’s predecessor, did not field any candidates against the Tories in the 317 seats they had won at the 2017 general election, following Boris Johnson’s commitment to leave the EU by January 2020.

Sunak vs Starmer

On Tuesday night, the two major parties wrested back control of the headlines as Rishi Sunak and Sir Kier Starmer went head-to-head for the first time this campaign in ITV’s primetime debate. Moderated by presenter Julie Etchingham, the leaders discussed a range of issues including the NHS, immigration, taxes and climate change.

A snap YouGov poll immediately after the debate suggested that Sunak narrowly ‘won’ due to his strong performance on tax and immigration. The latter topic produced a feisty exchange in which Sunak suggested he could pull Britain out of the European Court of Human Rights if it blocked his plan to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda. Nevertheless, the debate did not produce any form of knock-out blow for either side and is unlikely to seriously impact the polls.

Following the debate a major row emerged over the Prime Minister’s claim that “independent Treasury officials” had costed Labour’s policies “and they amount to a £2,000 tax rise for everyone”. James Bowler, Permanent Secretary to the Treasury wrote to Labour to make it clear that the £2,000 figure “should not be presented as having been produced by the civil service”. In spite of this, Sunak has continued to use the figure throughout the week.

Policy Insight

This week Labour wanted to talk about defence, as Starmer announced Labour will change procurement rules to force the Ministry of Defence to prioritise buying British equipment, whilst the party will aim to spend 2.5 per cent of GDP on defence as soon as possible. Starmer also highlighted that he would be prepared to use nuclear weapons if needed to defend the UK, as he further distanced himself from his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn’s unpopular opposition to the Trident nuclear weapons system.  Meanwhile, the Conservatives have pledged to tackle the “confusion” over the legal definition of sex by amending the Equality Act to make biological sex a protected characteristic.

Meanwhile, the general election campaign took a barely noticeable pause on Thursday, as UK party leaders congregated in Normandy alongside global heads of state to commemorate 80 years since the D-Day landings. World leaders attended the 80th anniversary commemorations, but Sunak left early to campaign, leaving David Cameron, the Foreign Secretary, to lead the UK delegation.

Polling Update

The polls have once again shown minimal movement, as the Labour remains on course for a large victory. Polling data from this week placed the majority at 194 seats, which would be the largest since Stanley Baldwin won a majority of 208 in 1924. The Conservatives, meanwhile, are set to lose over 200 seats and face near wipeout in London, the North East, the North West and Wales. This week’s data and seat breakdown is sourced from YouGov and their first major polling projection since the election was called on 22 May.

It is interesting to note that this poll was conducted before Nigel Farage confirmed he would stand as a candidate for Reform UK, so does not reflect any impact that may make. Interestingly, YouGov’s smaller weekly survey conducted just after the announcement, had Reform at 17%, just two points behind the Tories. We shall see if this large jump is reflected in larger polls to come.

Key moments of the week and upcoming dates


  • Sir Ed Davey has admitted that his increasing portfolio of campaign stunts, such as falling off a paddleboard into Lake Windermere, are a deliberate tactic to capture the public’s attention and compete with Labour and the Tories for election headlines. However, in what was presumably not an election stunt, Sir Ed was also this week fined £72 for speeding on the M1.
  • The Diane Abbott saga appeared to have finally drawn to a conclusion earlier this week after Kier Starmer u-turned and announced that the party veteran would be free to stand for the party in her Hackney North and Stoke Newington seat. This followed what was labelled as a ‘cull of left-wingers’ in the party last week as many left-leaning MPs and activists were barred from standing by Labour HQ.
  • Barking & Dagenham council leader Darren Rodwell has been removed from the list of election candidates by Labour’s National Executive Committee. Rodwell, who had been viewed as a rising star within the party, and has had considerable success as a Council Leader, has had his future in the party thrown into jeopardy amid an internal investigation looking into allegations made against him.


Looking ahead, both major parties are set to drop their manifesto documents next week. The Conservative Party manifesto launch is currently scheduled for between Monday and Wednesday whilst Labour is widely expected to launch its manifesto next Thursday 13 June.

Meanwhile, the first BBC election debate will take place on today, Friday 7 June, at 19:30. Whilst Sunak and Starmer are skipping this one, Penny Mordaunt and Angela Rayner will go head-to-head alongside representatives from the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Greens, Reform and Plaid Cymru. Other debates are scheduled for Wednesday 12 June (Sky) and Thursday 18 June (ITV) and whilst the exact formats are not yet clear, the former event is likely to see Sunak and Starmer answer questions from the public.

Who’s who in Labour back office

With a Labour Government edging 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 Matthew Doyle.

Matthew Doyle, appointed as Sir Keir Starmer’s interim Director of Communications, is a seasoned veteran in the realm of political communications. With a career spanning several decades, Doyle has played crucial roles in shaping the messaging and media strategies of the Labour Party during some of its most significant periods.

Doyle’s journey with Labour began in 1998, serving as a staffer and quickly rising to become the head of press and broadcasting. He played an instrumental role in the communications strategies for the 2001 and 2005 general elections, showcasing his ability to craft compelling narratives and manage media relations. His skills earned him a position as a special adviser to Tony Blair, where he served from 2005 until Blair’s departure from office in 2007.

Following Blair’s exit, Doyle became the political director and spokesperson for Blair’s office from 2007 to 2012. His tenure included advising David Blunkett, the Work and Pensions Secretary, demonstrating his versatility and expertise across different governmental departments. In 2010, Doyle returned to frontline politics briefly as the television debates media director for Gordon Brown during the general election, further solidifying his reputation as a communications expert. Doyle’s strategic insights have also been sought in leadership campaigns, notably working on Liz Kendall’s 2015 leadership bid alongside Morgan McSweeney, Starmer’s current chief of staff.

With his extensive background and proven track record, Matthew Doyle is tasked with navigating Labour through a complex media landscape, ensuring fair coverage, and effectively communicating the party’s vision to the public.

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.

  • In the second surprise return to the contest, former Leicester East MP Keith Vaz has announced he will be standing in the election, on behalf of ‘One Leicester’. Vaz had a long career in Parliament, where he sat for 32 years as a Labour member, before he retired after a drug-related scandal. The Leicester East contest will see Vaz go up against his successor, former Labour and now independent MP Claudia Webbe, who was expelled from the party following a conviction for harassment. The current Labour candidate is Sadiq Khan’s former Deputy Mayor for Business, Rajesh Agrawal.
  • Conservative Party Chairman Richard Holden has been rewarded for his loyalty to the party through his selection as the candidate for Basildon and Billericay, a Tory safe seat. He was the only candidate on the shortlist, which will no doubt draw criticism from some.
  • Keeping with the theme of rewarding loyalty, Kier Starmer’s former Deputy Director of Parliamentary Affairs Uma Kumaran has been selected as the candidate for Stratford and Bow. Whilst Heather Iqbal from Rachel Reeves’ team is standing in Dewsbury and Batley, as the Labour front bench looks to beef up the parliamentary party with loyal allies. Both Stratford and Dewsbury are seen as Labour safe seats.

Press and media releases

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


About Us

JBP 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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