General Election: Labour won’t want the response to its manifesto to be ‘is that it?’

General Election: Labour won’t want the response to its manifesto to be ‘is that it?’

The first two weeks of the 2024 General Election have told a tale of little change. Labour went into this election around 20 points ahead on average and that is where our latest Ipsos Political Monitor has them today.

Our findings today show Labour in a strong position. Not just in terms of headline voting intention but in the detailed findings too. Almost half the public now consider Labour ready for government, the highest level since 2022. Keir Starmer is preferred as the more capable Prime Minister ahead of Rishi Sunak by a margin of 46% to 22%.

It should be said that neither leader is particularly popular. Both are underwater in terms of net public satisfaction with their performance as leader (Sunak -53, Starmer -21). Only around one in five think each leader has much personality. Interestingly, our Ipsos Political Triangle data suggests policy and party, rather than the leaders, will play a bigger role in this election. Suggesting that the public are hungry for answers on the issues that matter most to them.

Manifestos key

Which brings us to the launch of party manifestos. It is rare for them to make big shifts in public opinion but 2017 showed as an example of where it can happen, when the Conservative’s social care policy at the time was one factor in their campaign faltering.

It has been suggested that Labour will be inclined to caution when it does launch its manifesto. This is understandable given the 2017 example. Yet overcaution carries risk too. Today’s findings show almost half still say they don’t know what Keir Starmer stands for and it is clear from this week’s debate that Rishi Sunak wants to make the idea that Labour ‘has no plan’ a key attack line in the rest of the campaign.

More importantly, the public want to know what a Labour government will do on the issues that matter most to them. On the big ones like the NHS and cost of living where Labour holds a strong lead over the Conservatives in terms of which party is more trusted but also on more contentious areas too – such as the economy, tax and immigration. Labour won’t want the response to its manifesto be ‘is that it?’

Labour shows its hand

The moment that Labour does show its hand and launch its manifesto will be key. In some ways it is one of the remaining moments of maximum political danger for the party this election. But it provides opportunity too. If Labour’s manifesto launch lands well then the Conservatives could find themselves running out of road in their search for an improbable political comeback.

Keiran Pedley is Director of Politics at Ipsos