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Part 1 - How to navigate the new Labour government

What does the new political landscape mean for your organisation and the issues you care about? Here, we outline how you can work with the new government on its policy agenda.

There is no doubt that the election result was seismic and the implications of what happened on Thursday 4 July will take some time to be interpreted and realised. Nevertheless, some of the basic facts about the new Labour government should give charities, trade unions and membership organisations pause for thought. 

In this first blog, Matt Ball, senior associate, outlines how to work with the new government on its policy agenda. 

For the first time in 14 years, there’s a total change of government – a new Prime Minister, a new cabinet and new ministers across every department. Only a handful of the new team have any ministerial experience, though they are being supported by peers who were ministers in the last Labour government. 

There may yet be changes to some of the machinery of government too. However, the Starmerite approach might consider the creation of new Whitehall departments too much of a gimmick, unless there is a strong rationale on how a restructure will improve delivery and the achievement of Labour’s missions.  

Building national connections 

The new Labour team in familiar Whitehall structures creates both opportunities and challenges for campaigning organisations. 

When it comes to engaging with the new team, creating or deepening relationships with the new government and with individual ministers must be the key focus for any organisation that wants to see policy change in the interests of their members, supporters or beneficiaries. Hopefully, you’ve already had some conversations with Labour people when they were in opposition. 

And when it comes to engaging with familiar departments and teams, where your organisation has had relationships with civil servants, it’s likely they will still be relevant. And if your engagement with civil servants has been successful over the past months, it’s possible there will be awareness of the policy areas where you might offer important insights to new ministers.  

It’s advisable to start mapping out who you know as an MP and a civil servant so you can refresh those connections. 

Building relationships around Labour’s missions 

Keir Starmer has made it clear that he wants to lead a ‘mission-led’ government. It remains to be seen what this will mean in practical terms, but organisations should be prepared to rethink the way they might interact with the government on this basis.  

Initially, Labour will be looking to make progress on its six ‘first steps’ outlined during the election campaign – economic stability; setting up Great British Energy; cutting NHS waiting lists with 40,000 extra appointments each week; launching a border security command; tackling anti-social behaviour with new police and penalties; and recruiting 6,500 teachers. 

Looking at the first steps and your own work, map out: 

  • What are the unique insights that your organisation can offer to inform ministers as they begin to progress these headline policies? 

  • Do you have clear positions on the areas where you have an interest, or do you need to create them?  

  • Are there concerns that need to be flagged early, offering constructive insight?  

  • Are there solutions that might help the new government that are also in the interests of your members, supporters or beneficiaries? 

In addition to the ‘first steps’, Labour had previously indicated that it wanted to begin legislating for its ‘New Deal for Working People’ during its first 100 days of government. This is an area that has seen a lot of discussion and debate, particularly among Labour-affiliated trade unions, but the policy detail and exactly how legislation will be framed is yet to be determined, and there will likely be further opportunities to shape this programme. Are you ready to respond? 

Nevertheless, despite the desire to make some headline change early on, the principles of the ‘mission’ approach suggest that policymaking and implementation will take place over time. Labour politicians emphasised throughout the campaign that the significant changes they are striving to achieve will take two parliaments. 

This means there’s time to influence what happens, but also, it may require a different approach to push for change. It remains to be seen if a mission-focussed government is more receptive to policy and detail rather than campaigns and headlines. Either way, framing your policy priorities so they resonate with Labour’s missions should help get a receptive hearing.  

You will still need the stories of your members, supporters and beneficiaries to support your case for change and this will remain important in terms of influencing public opinion so the new Labour government recognise a desire for action. 

In our second blog, we’ll look at how to build relationships with MPs both old and new. 

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