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Election Roundup: Week 2 – Will this be Gayest Parliament Ever?

Welcome to Navigate Politics’ new weekly election roundup, bringing you all the new policy pledges, stats, polls, insights, and candidates to watch – right up until polling day. If you know somebody who would find this briefing useful, please do forward it on so they can subscribe and get it direct to their inbox each Friday.

This Week's Pledges 📜

Health was the Conservative Party’s main policy focus this week, leading up to the first set of election debates (and following the news of further junior doctor strikes). The Tories unveiled a series of pledges focused on increasing NHS capacity, expanding levelling up efforts, and re-writing the Equality Act. Sunak pledged to build 100 new GP surgeries in England and expand the Pharmacy First scheme, hoping that it would free up 20 million GP appointments. Additionally, the party announced plans to build 50 new Community Diagnostic Centres, which would have the potential to deliver 2.5 million more tests a year. On levelling up, Sunak pledged to give 30 towns – many located in the Midlands and North – £20m each, and on social policy, has committed to re-work the Equality Act so that the protections it provides on a person's sex only apply to their biological sex. To commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day, Sunak pledged to reduce the cost of a Veterans Railcard by a third, as well as permit them to be used as Voter ID. Rounding off the week, the party said it would allow parents who make up to £120,000 a year to receive full child benefits – doubling the current threshold, though it will be linked to household income, rather than individual income.  

Defence, Housing, and Tax were Labour’s themes this week, as the party announced how it would make the tax system fairer, vowing to not raise income tax, national insurance or VAT. Labour pledged to publish a Tax Roadmap that businesses could follow throughout the next Parliament, and to also clamp down on tax avoidance. On Monday, Starmer announced more on Labour’s defence policy, including a “triple-lock” commitment to the UK’s nuclear submarine programme, plans to establish an Armed Forces Commissioner, and a proposal to change defence procurement policy to force the MOD to prioritise buying British equipment. Labour also pledged to give businesses more flexibility in how they spend money earmarked for apprenticeships and committed to making the Mortgage Guarantee Scheme permanent in the effort to get over 80,000 young people on the housing ladder over the next five years. On Friday, Labour pledged to allow local communities to restore nature on derelict land through the party’s ‘countryside protection plan’, enabling them to buy up land and promote green spaces. The plan also includes pledges to plant three new national forests and ban bee-killing pesticides.

The Liberal Democrats have outlined plans to end the ‘hospital crisis’ by offering free personal care to older or disabled people at home and increase the minimum wage for carers by £2 above the minimum wage, in order to tackle the shortage of care workers. Additionally, as an early Father’s Day surprise, Ed Davey pledged to boost parental leave, with the party hoping to raise paternity pay and provide an extra ‘dad month’ to encourage fathers to take paternity leave.

PPC Insights - Will we see a record number of gay MPs elected? ✒️

The number of LGBTQ+ MPs elected to Parliament has skyrocketed since the 2010 election - more than doubling in the last 14 years of Conservative Government. In 2010, 26 openly LGBTQ+ candidates were elected to Parliament. In comparison, the 2019 election saw the gayest Parliament in the world elected, with 46 MPs identifying as LGBTQ+. At dissolution that number had increased by more than 40% to 65 MPs, with by-elections electing 5 new openly gay Labour MPs, and several MPs coming out after the election. Looking at the main 4 parties in Parliament at the time of dissolution, 23% of SNP MPs openly identified as LGBTQ+ compared to 12% in the Labour Party, and just over 6% in both the Lib Dems and Conservatives.

So looking ahead to the new Parliament, could the UK see the gayest Parliament elected again? It is first worth noting that there are several current queer MPs standing down at the election. This includes some big figures, including the Tories’ only openly queer female MP, Dehenna Davison; the only transgender MP in Parliament, Jamie Wallis; and former Baby of the House and Deputy SNP leader, Mhari Black. Of the MPs seeking re-election, there are also several predicted to lose their seats, with only 4 LGBTQ sitting Conservative MPs in relatively safe seats, (Michael Fabricant, Lee Rowley, Iain Stewart and Nigel Evans, though recent MRP polling predicted that of the four, only Fabricant will keep his seat); and sitting Labour MPs such as Olivia Blake and Cat Smith standing in seats that are targets for the Conservatives and Lib Dems.

Due to the number of MPs standing down, it seems likely that the number of openly queer MPs elected to Parliament will only slightly increase compared to the previous two elections (at 45 and 46); and decrease compared to the current representation in Parliament. In the event of a 12% swing, the number of openly queer MPs elected to Parliament in this election would be just over 50, over 30 of whom would sit on the Labour benches. The Lib Dems are predicted to increase the number of queer MPs they have in Parliament, whilst the Conservatives decrease their representation and the SNP retain a similar level. If recent MRP polling is correct, the Conservatives could be left with only 2 openly LGBTQ MPs on the Official Opposition benches.

The gender spilt of queer MPs is expected to remain roughly the same, at around 25% female and 75% male. However, trans representation in Parliament is expected to decrease as Jamie Wallis leaves politics, with the only transgender candidate, Labour’s Emily Brothers, standing in the Tory safe seat Isle of Wight East. It is worth remembering of course, there will likely be candidates that come out after being elected – as happened in 2019 – so it is unlikely that queer representation as a whole will decrease.

Candidate Deep Dive - Focus on Pride Month 🔍

To mark the start of Pride Month, we’ve compiled a list of PPCs to watch who we expect will be vocal in championing LGBTQ+ issues in the Commons if elected:

John Cope (Conservative, Esher and Walton) – Worked in a series of positions in Parliament and the private sector, including for Lord Willetts when he was an MP; as Executive Director of UCAS; and as a councillor for Elmbridge Borough Council. Was Vice Chairman of the LGBTory group, and Interim Chair of LGBTQ+ Conservatives.

Grant Costello (SNP, East Kilbride and Strathaven) – Digital Manager for the SNP contesting Lisa Cameron’s seat. A former member of the Scottish Youth Parliament who has in the past addressed rallies calling for the legalisation of same-sex marriage and has more recently criticised George Galloway for insinuating that gay relationships are not “normal”.

Carla Denyer (Green Party, Bristol Central) – Co-leader of the Green Party, serving as a Bristol councillor from 2015-2024. First bisexual person to lead a major political party in England. Spoken about the need for political activism and campaigned for Trans rights.

Martin McCluskey (Labour, Inverclyde and Renfrewshire West) – Works in his own consultancy firm having been political advisor to both Margaret Curran MP and Ian Murray MP when they were Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland. Became a councillor for Inverclyde in 2022. Criticised the Scottish Labour Party for its lack of diversity in its choices of candidates (including LGBTQ people) and has spoken about his hopes to inspire the younger LGBTQ generation.

Luke Myer (Labour, Middlesborough South and East Cleveland) – Worked as a policy advisor for the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, a research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research North and served as a councillor for Redcar and Cleveland Council. When Vice President of Edge Hill University’s Students’ Union, he lobbied US tech firm Ellucian to better facilitate the needs of transgender students, forcing the company to upgrade its administrative software, Quercus, to allow for students to change their name, pronouns and gender designations.

Tom Rutland (Labour, East Worthing and Shoreham) – Worked in various roles in Parliament and in the public affairs industry and served as a councillor in Lambeth. Joined a campaign by Lambeth Council in 2022 when standing for election, calling for MPs to ban conversion therapy.

Steve Race (Labour, Exeter) – Worked as a parliamentary researcher for Ben Bradshaw from 2007-2011 and is now standing in his constituency after Bradshaw stood down. Councillor for the London Borough of Hackney. Created and led a campaign in 2022, calling for the Rwanda scheme to be scrapped, noting the potential dangers this could have on LGBTQ+ asylum seekers.

Michael Payne (Labour, Gedling) – Councillor on the Gedling Borough Council having previously been President of the Lancaster University Students’ Union. Set up the LGBT+ Labour Group, and is its inaugural chair, supporting councillors who identify as LGBT.

On the Campaign Trail 👟

Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer clashed in the first televised debate on Tuesday, with much of the debate (and subsequent analysis) focusing on Sunak’s claims that Labour would increase taxes by £2,000. The Labour leader called it “absolute garbage” (albeit not immediately), and Treasury Permanent Secretary James Bowler released a letter the following morning arguing the claim should not be presented as having been produced by the Civil Service (as Sunak did). The debate also centered on questions to do with healthcare, immigration, and the cost-of-living – with much of the internet’s comments section being taken up with discussion of whether Sunak and Starmer were right to say they would or wouldn’t (delete as appropriate) use private healthcare.

Sunak was also forced to apologise for mind-bogglingly leaving D-Day Commemorations early on Thursday, leaving Foreign Secretary David Cameron and (Prime Minister in waiting) Labour Leader Keir Starmer to attend the International Ceremony on Omaha Beach with other international leaders. On Friday morning Sunak said “it was a mistake to not stay in France longer”, with opposition figures calling it a “dreadful judgement” and “dereliction of duty”. Sunak’s decision was even more jaw-dropping when it appeared he returned to the UK early in order to give an interview to ITV to defend the £2,000 tax claim he made in the debate…despite further criticism from The Office for Statistics Regulation.

To mark the 80th Anniversary of D-Day, Labour leader Keir Starmer delivered a speech on ‘a stronger, safer, more secure Britain’, warning that a “new age of insecurity has begun”. He reiterated his desire to spend 2.5% of GDP on Defence “as soon as possible”, emphasised the importance of relationships with allies, and concluded that a Labour Government “would always meet our international obligations, take our responsibilities seriously and be a leader on the world stage”.

Other Campaign News 📰

Nigel Farage’s surprise U-turn, announcing he would be standing for Parliament, sent Tory HQ into panic mode this week and put a rocket under Reform in the latest polls (see below). The former MEP and UKIP leader shot back into the headlines by announcing he will also be taking over as leader of Reform again (having stood down three years ago) and will be fighting the Tory marginal of Clacton where – after seven previous failed attempts to win a seat on the green benches – he is currently odds-on to win.

Ed Davey continued the Lib Dem’s gimmick-filled campaign by waving his sausage around as he barbequed for veterans and party faithful in a garden in Wiltshire this week, fitted out in a ‘King of the Grill’ apron and Union flag glove (naturally). The Lib Dem leader had a mixed week, having been forced to apologise for speeding on the M1 in March, but praised for a deeply personal campaign video showing his responsibilities as a carer both to his disabled son and his late mother.

Get ready for a policy-heavy week next week with the manifestos expected out in bulk. According to media reports (to the tune of Craig David’s ‘Seven Days’): the Lib Dems will be publishing theirs on Monday, the Conservatives will have theirs out on Tuesday, the Green Party will launch theirs on Wednesday, while Labour will publish theirs on Thursday. Navigate’s clients will have access to interactive summaries of the manifestos, by department, shortly after they’re published on our new platform – Compass™.

This Week's Election Stats 📈

80 years – since D-Day happened on 6 June 1944, with political leaders from across the globe meeting in France to celebrate the anniversary (and Sunak apologising today for dipping out early).

£2,000 – the  amount of extra tax Rishi Sunak is claiming that families would pay under a Labour Government, a figure which he mentioned nine times during Tuesday’s ITV debate and which Keir Starmer has called “absolutely garbage”.

29 – the number of MS’ who do not have confidence in Welsh First Minister Vaughan Gething, after he lost a vote of no confidence in the Senedd on Wednesday, by 29 votes to 27.

100 – the number of new GP surgeries the Conservatives are pledging to build in England.

£30bn – the amount of extra money the Green Party has pledged to deliver for the NHS annually in England by 2030, alongside a further £20bn a year for social care.

90% – of small business owners who say they are concerned business rates could rise under the next Government, according to new research from the FSB.

Elections around the World 🌍

India’s massive general election provided a shock result as the ruling BJP lost its majority. The party had been expected to win by a landslide, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi declaring it was aiming to win 400 seats, but instead it lost over 60 seats and tumbled to 240, well below the 272 needed for a majority. However, the broader alliance of which the BJP is a part still took a majority of seats, meaning Modi will not find it hard to establish a coalition government. The result shocked the country, as the powerful BJP has dominated Indian politics since 2014. It was also the largest election in history, with nearly 970 million people eligible to vote.

Mexico elected the first female head of state in North America with former mayor of Mexico City Claudia Sheinbaum sweeping to victory. Sheinbaum was the continuity candidate of outgoing president Andrés Manuel López Obrador and received nearly 60% of the vote, compared to opposition businesswoman Xóchitl Gálvez’s 27%. She is also a former energy scientist and a member of Mexico’s tiny Jewish community, with her grandparents having fled to the country from the Nazis. In parliament, her MORENA party came first but did not win an overall majority.

This Week’s Polls 📊

The first YouGov MRP poll of the campaign shows Labour is on course for the biggest election victory in history, surpassing Tony Blair’s landslide in 1997. The projection suggests that Labour could have a majority of 194 with 422 seats, while the Conservatives would be reduced to 140, marking their biggest loss since 1906. It indicates that they could be set for ‘near wipeout’ across many areas of the country, including London, the North East, the North West and Wales, with the SNP also losing more than half of their seats.

Reform UK is polling just two points behind the Conservatives following Farage’s return, according to another YouGov poll. It puts Labour on 40%, the Conservatives on 19%, Reform on 17%, the Lib Dems on 10% and the Greens on 7%, giving Starmer a 21-point lead over Sunak. It’s worth noting that the polling company changed its methodology this week and, under its old system, the Conservatives and Reform would have been level on 18%. A poll by Redfield & Wilton Strategies also found that Reform is the second most popular party among men after Labour.

And it goes from bad to worse for Sunak as 12 Cabinet Ministers are predicted to lose their seats, including Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk and Education Secretary Gillian Keegan. The new poll shows that Penny Mordaunt, who has been tipped as a potential leadership contender, could also be at risk in Portsmouth North. Over in the Shadow Cabinet, the poll suggests the Greens could defeat Shadow Culture Secretary Thangam Debbonaire in Bristol Central while the rest are currently safe Labour.

Campaign Gaffes 😂

In this week’s series of gaffes on the campaign trail, we of course can’t not mention the Prime Minister’s rather spectacular own goal yesterday, when he dipped out of the 80th anniversary D-Day celebrations… to record an interview with ITV… which doesn’t air until next Wednesday. ITV’s Paul Brand, who carried out the interview, stated “[yesterday] was the slot that we were offered, we don’t know why. Obviously it’s not our choice.” Sunak has since apologised, calling his decision to leave early a “mistake”… certainly interesting optics from the party trying to brand themselves as the strongest on defence and security.

Also this week, enjoy this clip of Defence Secretary Grant Shapps calling Sky’s Sam Coates live on air, only to be told the polls are projecting he will lose his seat. It didn’t take long before he hung up the phone…

… Home Secretary James Cleverly didn’t seem to be too upset by the prospect of Esther McVey losing her seat here

… it was revealed Lib Dem leader Ed Davey was fined earlier this year for speeding on the M1, but turns out that whilst he paid the fine, he forgot to provide his driving licence details to police…

… Mid Bucks constituents are going to face a rather confusing ballot paper on 4 July, with a choice of candidates including Tory incumbent Greg Smith and Green Party candidate… Greg Smith…

… and to top it all off, Seb Payne’s search for a safe seat came to a dramatic and unsuccessful conclusion (for now), after he lost out to Ed McGuiness in the Conservative PPC selection for Surrey Heath… by two votes!


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