Posted on: 30.10.2023

Political Prognosis: What we (might) all be talking about this time next year.

Let’s be honest, following party politics in the UK can range from the deadly boring to the damned infuriating. Regardless of your personal political persuasion, the ins and outs of Westminster gossip and eccentric electoral manoeuvring can often feel like the world’s worst soap opera – laughable plotlines, wooden delivery and character changes every few years.

But politics isn’t a soap opera, or a sport. It’s not a point scoring exercise, with teams to cheer for or slag off. Because the decisions these dodgy soap opera characters make have real ramifications for people across the UK, and for the brands and businesses that want to market to them. Not to get all Obama about things, but we can hope, right?

Party Conference season is done and dusted, complete with a proliferation of policies and serious speeches that offer keen observers of the political runners and riders a chance to analyse form and place their bets as to who’s going to break the tape once the starting gun is fired on the 2024* General Election (most likely winter, but possibly spring).

So stare with me into our crystal ball of political prognosis, and perhaps some absolutely-definitely-potentially-correct conclusions might be drawn about what we all might be talking about this time next year. Or sooner!

Prediction One: Climate chaos is coming, like it or not

This summer, the Tories unveiled a raft of measures aimed at rolling back green policies and slowing the pace of the drive towards Net Zero (The Guardian). This was a line in the (rapidly heating) sand between the parties, inspired – I’d say rashly – by a surprise reaction to emissions charges in outer London during the Uxbridge byelection (The Standard).

Though the PM is still claiming his commitment to Net Zero remains steadfast, he’s clearly aligning himself with climate change sceptics on the right, and asking the British public to come along for the ride. They tried it, and failed, during the Australian election in 2022 (The Guardian), and there’s something to learn there…

Because it’s not just the people Sunak wants to divide on climate. He wants the media to kick up a fuss too. Remember during Brexit when High Court Judges became ‘enemies of the people’ (Independent)

That’s going to happen with sustainability.

So all our clients’ carefully crafted environmental messaging, their sustainable business strategies, their own Net Zero agendas… they’ll all be in play. Will they go quiet for fear of alienating a suddenly dividing audience? Or will they double down and fight the green fight? 

For years, sustainability has been an open goal for brands. Customers like it, or they don’t care. Win – meh. Now that meh might instead be a boycott, a social media backlash or a big media gaff. So we need to be prepared.

Prediction Two: The culture war will become ever more violent

You might not know it, but you’re already a footsoldier in the world’s most depressing war (Wikipedia). And the battlefields are all over the place. Climate change, of course. Trans rights. Free speech. Systemic racism. Decolonisation. Ukraine. Palestine. School uniform. Working from home. Employee welfare policies. Bike lanes. Electric cars. Speed limits. You name it, it’s likely to be weaponised in an effort to win votes in the next 12 months.

And it’s not just arguing on the internet. These things matter. And they especially matter to Gen Z, and therefore to the brands and businesses trying to engage with them. So when opposing sides are drawing up their talking points on why J K Rowling would rather go to jail than use preferred pronouns(PinkNews), or whether cars are more important than children (BBC), brands are going to get dragged into the fray – especially when their areas of influence overlap.

Pity the social media managers, honestly. The bile is rising, and it’s not even close to topping out. US businesses found themselves in a similar position during the Trump presidency, with many eventually taking a stand (The New York Times) once actual armed resurrection forced their hands.

Prediction Three: Labour will win, and things will feel a bit brighter

Sometimes the polls lie, and sometimes the polls change. But they don’t normally lie or change enough to offer Rishi Sunak a real chance of keeping his job. Keir Starmer is personally polling better, and Labour are ~20pts ahead as a party (YouGov). The bookmakers have Labour at 1/10, versus the Tories 5/1. 

Both parties know this, and so does the media. But what we don’t know is how much Labour will win by, and how much they’ll be able to do.

Win by a lot, and it could start feeling all 1997, just with Dave and Central Cee visiting Downing Street instead of Liam and Noel (NME). We’ve had Covid, we’ve had the Queen’s funeral, we’ve had inflation through the roof and mortgage rates rocketing. So it feels like a safe bet that the British public might be up for a change of record and some more positive tunes – getting out and spending, embracing brands with vision and generally smiling a bit more.

That said, if Keir slides through without a big majority, and with serious financial constraints, those changes might be hard to come by. Will people feel so bright and breezy about more of the same, just delivered by a different face? Perhaps not.

Prediction Four: Integrity will matter more than ever

Less of a prediction, actually, but more of a hope. With so much change in the air, and 13 years of Tory government expected to come to an end during a year in which every issue – from the climate to the contents of people’s underwear – is raked over in the press, some brands will find themselves searching high and low for values that fit a narrative defined by the audience they want to reach.

But the searchers will hold less value than the steadfast. Businesses with integrity, who nail their colours to the mast and weather the storm, will appear more authentic, more relatable and more appealing to consumers suffering from change fatigue.

People will be tired. Tired of the shit on the telly. Tired of their bills going up. Tired of their dad blathering on about 5G masts. Tired of working out what they should care about. Tired of endless chat about how they’re all the same and you can’t believe a word any of them say.

So integrity and authenticity will be more important than ever. A marketing manager’s nightmare!

This time next year, yeah?

Wondering whether any of this political prognosis is even slightly worthwhile? Give us 12 months and find out.

In the meantime, if your business might be facing down the kind of challenges our crystal ball has dredged up from the murky depths, maybe we can help. 

*Yes, nerds, it could possibly be January 2025. The electoral equivalent of waiting until the lights come on. But that just sounds too awful to consider.

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