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A Guide To The Six Main Parties: What Will Be Their Campaign Messages?

The general election machines are lurching into action, albeit with some initial grinding of gears as the parties respond to the unexpected summer election date. So what will they be saying? And how will they be saying it? Here is our guide to the six most prominent parties.

ConservativesThe big message: Stick to the plan. Yes, the narrative goes, we have been in power for 14 years, but in an era of unprecedented global threats and as some economic numbers tick up after Covid and the energy price crunch, why risk it with Labour?

What they’ll want to talk about: Inflation. Now at 2.3%, Rishi Sunak will want to take credit for a pledge that has been met, even if sceptics argue it was going to fall anyway. And Rwanda. While not a single plane has left, or will leave before the election, they hope to contrast the idea of it with Labour’s more prosaic policies on border security.

What they won’t want to talk about: Liz Truss. Possibly Boris Johnson. Maybe even Brexit. Basically, most things that didn’t begin on 25 October 2022, when Sunak became PM – except his role as chancellor during the pandemic, and his largesse with furlough.

Breakout star: David Cameron. This might be stretching the definition, but since being parachuted in as foreign secretary, Cameron has been able to remind people how smooth, unflappable and reassuring he can be with media appearances. Will he be widely used? Time will tell.

The logistics of the campaign: Traditionally, incumbent governments and Conservative campaigns have focused on the “air war” – advertisements, heavily choreographed rallies, repetitive slogans. With Sunak the “air” part is likely to be literal. There is no talk as yet of a battlebus – one is expected to emerge in the last few weeks – and the PM could spend much of the time in helicopters.

What would be a good night/bad night? In public, the Tories would say a hung parliament. In practice, many would snap your hand off for a Labour majority of less than 100. As for a bad night – some worry about a Canada 1993-style near extinction-level result (when the Progressive Conservative party slumped from 167 federal seats to just two).

LabourThe big message: Time for a change, and we’re not scary. The first is perhaps obvious for an opposition party, but after 14 years of sometimes completely chaotic Conservative rule it has more resonance than usual. The second element seeks to neuter Sunak’s “don’t risk a change” attack. We are not the Labour of 2019, will be the mantra.

What they’ll want to talk about: Conservative plans – if they can be described as that – to scrap national insurance, allowing a competing battle of ideas on fiscal black holes. And housing, a key motivator for some younger voters. Labour has already announced a plan for several new towns and a wider promise to build 1.5m new homes.

What they won’t want to talk about: Jeremy Corbyn. The former leader is standing for his north London seat as an independent, and Labour will be keen for this to not become a psychodrama or a distraction. And, possibly, Gaza, even though the front bench position on this is now not vastly different from that of many activists.

Breakout star: Shabana Mahmood. The barrister turned MP and shadow justice secretary is personable, articulate, sounds like a human being and is very canny in negotiating the party’s ideological and personal chasms. She spent two years as national campaigns coordinator, and so understands the mechanics of electioneering.

The logistics of the campaign: Caught very slightly on the hop by the election date, Labour is moving fast, and will want to present Keir Starmer as the obvious prime minister in waiting. Other senior figures will, however, get a look-in, especially Angela Rayner, who is expected to be aboard a luxurious battlebus for much of the campaign.

What would be a good night/bad night? In psephological terms, Labour should be on course for a thumping majority. In practice, after the traumas of the last four elections, the party would be ecstatic with a majority of almost any size. A hung parliament would be seen as a disaster.

Liberal DemocratsThe big message: Don’t like the Conservatives? Not mad keen on Labour? Hello! Getting bandwidth as a third party is always difficult, and for the Lib Dems, much of their campaign will involve persuading voters that they are the people to remove Tory MPs in seats where Labour is less strong, an idea they have honed through a mass of byelections.

What they’ll want to talk about: Sewage. NHS waiting lists. Ambulance times. Sewage again.

What they won’t want to talk about: Brexit. In stark contrast to the 2019 “revoke Brexit without a referendum” pledge, the subject remains dear to members but is on the back burner.

Breakout star: Daisy Cooper. Yes, she is the deputy leader, but she was only elected in 2019. Engaging and on top of every detail, Cooper is often tipped as a future leader.

The logistics of the campaign: Unlike 2019, when they piled up lots of votes but won only 11 seats, things this time are ultra-disciplined, with a swathe of target seats that will get more or less all the resources. There will be a battlebus, but not the electric one used in 2019 – it’s not available this time.

What would be a good night/bad night? It is not impossible for the party to end up with 50 or more MPs on 5 July. Anything less than 30 would be seen as a blow.

SNPThe big message: Stick with us, only we can speak for Scotland in Westminster. Maintaining a hegemony is never easy, and after winning 48 of 59 Scottish seats in 2019, and 56 in 2017, there is an inevitable necessity for damage limitation, especially with a third leader in little over a year.

What they’ll want to talk about: Labour. Starmer’s party, polling shows, is very much back in Scotland, and John Swinney’s team will want to highlight Labour policies on welfare and Gaza in particular.

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What they won’t want to talk about: The forensic tent outside Nicola Sturgeon’s house. Humza Yousaf. Police arrests. Luxury motorhomes. Health waiting lists.

Breakout star: Kate Forbes. Hardly a newcomer, but the new deputy first minister under John Swinney is already being widely used for campaigning, despite reservations by some about her socially conservative views.

The logistics of the campaign: This will to an extent depend on money: with the recent turmoil, donors are in short supply. Holyrood is still sitting, which complicates things. Talk of buses, battle or otherwise, is understandably not always welcome.

What would be a good night/bad night? A good night is not expected; a pushback in the polls and staying as the largest party in Scotland in terms of parliamentary seats would be seen as a platform for the next Holyrood elections. A bad night could see Labour take 30 of the now 57 seats on offer.

GreensThe big message: Labour is going to win – why not have a few Greens in parliament as well? There will be a particular focus on the few seats they might win.

What they’ll want to talk about: The environment and net zero, obviously, but also poverty and inequality, where the Greens see Labour as very ineffectual.

What they won’t want to talk about: Transgender rights. This is arguably true of several parties, but the debate has particularly riven the Greens.

Breakout star: Zack Polanski. The deputy leader and London Assembly member is a fluent media performer, and likely to be well used.

The logistics of the campaign: Focus, focus, focus. With limited resources – though with an increasing mass of councillors – the Greens will push everything at defending their one seat (Brighton Pavilion) and trying to gain one or two more.

What would be a good night/bad night? If Siân Berry keeps Brighton Pavilion after Caroline Lucas has stepped down that would be good. Co-leader Carla Denyer winning Bristol Central from Labour would be great. Other co-leader Adrian Ramsey taking the new Waveney Valley constituency would be amazing. But – it could end up being none.

Reform UKThe big message: Let’s finish off the Tories. Unlike 2019, where it stood down in Tory-held seats, Richard Tice’s brigade doesn’t mind inflicting damage on Rishi Sunak, in the long-term hope Reform might replace them.

What they’ll want to talk about: Immigration. A bit more immigration. Woke culture.

What they won’t want to talk about: That a vote for them will help Labour win more MPs. This is, to an extent, part of the Tory-extinction plan, but it might do well to not advertise it.

Breakout star: Nigel Farage. He might be its honorary president and, essentially, owner, but Farage has taken a back seat of late. For the election he will pause his GB News/Fox News career to go into battle for Reform – if not to the extent of standing in a seat.

The logistics of the campaign: Reform is short of money, and currently a bit short on candidates, so things will be a rush and necessarily targeted. But it does already have a battlebus, as used in various byelections.

What would be a good night/bad night? Getting a vote share anywhere near its current polling of up to 14% or so. In fact the party would settle for a reasonable amount less. But if it gets closer to 5%, that would be a big setback.

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