Archive for the ‘Analysis’ Category

Innovation Zero: As nature rises up the agenda, businesses should be ready for tough questions

Posted on: May 8th, 2024 by Morgan Arnold

Last week’s Innovation Zero conference at London’s Olympia saw thousands of impassioned entrepreneurs, business leaders and politicians make the case for climate action. Renewables, transport and finance all featured heavily throughout the two-day congress. But it was the focus on nature and its role in corporate sustainability efforts that caught our eye.   

Waking up to nature-related risk 

Often overlooked, nature has been given more attention in recent years following developments such as the Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) and the Montreal-Kunming Global Biodiversity Framework. While this has pushed the issue up the international agenda, nature is still somewhat of a hot potato, with businesses struggling to communicate their role in protecting and conserving our natural environment or how they are harnessing nature’s power to accelerate net zero.  

A recent analysis from the Green Finance Institute and the University of Oxford has starkly quantified the potential impact of nature degradation, both domestically and internationally, on the UK’s economy and financial sector. The deterioration of the UK’s natural environment could lead to an estimated 12% loss to GDP, a figure larger than the shocks of the Global Financial Crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic.  

The researchers argued that while the economic costs of climate change are becoming increasingly accepted, the risks posed by nature degradation amount to a material cost that has not been sufficiently factored into financial and business decision-making.  

Another study from BloombergNEF in collaboration with TNFD at the end of last year, profiled 10 companies that incurred significant financial losses due to their impacts, dependencies, and risks associated with nature. These companies, ranging from Bernard Matthews to Tesla, faced heavy falls in market valuation, credit rating downgrades, litigation settlements, and major reputational damage. This underscores the real-world consequences of nature-related risks. 

Rethinking nature by moving it out of the corporate social responsibility bucket and putting it on equal footing with net zero will enable businesses to take the lead in managing their risk exposure and safeguard their reputation. It will also help channel capital and investments towards nature-based solutions and businesses taking nature-positive steps as part of their environmental strategies. Communicating the steps businesses are taking to focus on nature-based solutions as well as net zero will be paramount to achieving real change. 

The great carbon offsetting debate 

A second thread of the nature conversation at the conference was generally a more positive one. Forests, peatlands, and oceans all hold the key to one of the most powerful levers for climate action: nature-based solutions (NbS). 

The potential of NbS is immense, offering a pathway to sequester carbon and restore the balance of our ecosystems. The voluntary carbon market is the most well-known mechanism that provides essential funding for nature-based projects that might otherwise lack support.  

However, its critics have continued to campaign against corporates purchasing carbon credits to offset emissions, claiming that it distracts from decarbonisation. Indeed, last Thursday, the BBC’s Panorama investigated two carbon projects that have generated carbon credits purchased by the likes of Shell, Delta Airlines and Deliveroo. The programme raised some serious questions about how the proceeds of the credits are spent and the impact on local communities, with one example showing a group of indigenous people having been evicted from their land. 

The programme’s accusations are the latest in a long-running series of investigative journalism that has scrutinised the voluntary carbon market and the businesses that participate in it.  

With the in delivering net zero, businesses must be prepared for heightened questions about their use of carbon credits, the projects they are supporting, and how this does not distract tactic from the broader objective of decarbonisation.  

Nature has entered the boardroom 

Putting all of this together, it is increasingly clear that nature is becoming a boardroom issue and getting on the front foot is essential. So where should communicators begin? 

Firstly, transparency is crucial. Exploring initiatives like the TNFD, where businesses voluntarily disclose their nature-related impacts and dependencies, will help build trust over the long run. Given that these frameworks tend to later become mandatory, businesses that are engaging now will be better prepared when it becomes part of their legal reporting requirements.  

Secondly, this issue requires meaningful stakeholder engagement. Creating dialogues with key audiences around the importance of nature and its role in net zero will offer a chance to understand their needs and highlight where efforts should be focused. No business will have all the answers now, but through collaboration and engagement, solutions can surface. 

In summary, businesses and their complex relationships with nature are firmly in the spotlight. Reputations are on the line when things go wrong.  

However, on the flip side, those who get it right should stand to gain when they are able to confidently articulate how they are contributing towards a nature-positive future. 

Benjamin Carr, Associate Director & Mathilde Milpied, Senior Account Manager 

 

Political Insider: Humza Yousaf resigns as Scottish First Minister

Posted on: April 29th, 2024 by Morgan Arnold

Half a week is a long time in politics. Last Thursday, Humza Yousaf summoned Scottish Green Ministers Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater to Bute House and informed them that their party’s services were no longer required in his SNP minority Government, formally ending their 2021 power-sharing agreement (the Bute House Agreement). Just a week later, Yousaf has been forced to resign, admitting that he “clearly underestimated the amount of upset and hurt” that he caused the Greens. So how did ditching a party of 7 in a Parliament of 129 force Yousaf out?

Following the Scottish Government’s dropping of a key pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 203

0, the Scottish Greens announced they were going to put the Bute House Agreement to a membership vote. In anticipation of a negative result, Yousaf pre-emptively ditched the cooperation pact between them, sparking deep upset and anger within Green Party circles.

Spotting an opportunity, no confidence votes in the Scottish Government and Yousaf as First Minister were called by the Conservatives and Labour parties and backed by the Greens and Lib Dems. After doing the political arithmetic, Yousaf came to the conclusion that he wasn’t going to survive them and resigned, sparking off a leadership contest.

As it stands, there are several front runners to take over as SNP leader and First Minister: Kate Forbes, former Finance Secretary and runner-up in the 2023 SNP leadership contest, would represent a departure from the Salmond-Sturgeon dynasty with her socially conservative views. John Swinney, former party leader and Sturgeon’s deputy, is seen as a safe pair of hands by the party. Jenny Gilruth, Scottish Education Secretary, and Neil Gray, Scottish Health Secretary are also seen as potential candidates.

Yousaf has committed to staying on as First Minister until his successor is elected “as soon as possible”, having learnt a vital political lesson: always make sure you have the numbers.

Labour Analysis

Joshua Kaile, Public Affairs, Associate Director and former Labour Party advisor

After 17 years remarkable years of power in Scotland, today feels like it could potentially be the beginning of the end to SNP rule.

Just 15 months ago this would have seemed like an almost laughable proposition, but the fall has come about almost as sharply as their rise to total political dominance in Scotland.

Today’s resignation from First Minister Humza Yousaf was moving at times, with personal reflections and tears in his speech. He reflected on his political miscalculation last week that has seen the abrupt end to his brief premiership. He might have outlasted the lettuce, but he has ultimately been defeated by the Greens.

Humza appears to have fatally misjudged how much ill-feeling could come from his decision to terminate the Bute House Agreement between the SNP and their coalition partners the Scottish Greens. That misjudgement has ended his leadership, but it may have also irreparably damaged his Party, with no opposition group particularly keen to bail them out of the hole that has been dug.

Then there is the ongoing investigation into the SNP’s finances which has seen the former Chief Executive of the SNP, and husband to former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, re-arrested this month.

Labour are particularly keen to capitalise on the struggles in the SNP, both in Holyrood elections and Westminster. Earlier this month Labour overtook the SNP in Scottish Westminster polls for the first time since the independece referendum a decade ago, leading by 33% to 33%. The SNP were faring slightly better in Holyrood polls, leading Labour by 28% to 25%, but that is likely to change in light of recent events.

We are likely to hear Keir Starner and Labour in Westminster comparing the chaos in both the Tories and SNP, urging for elections in both Parliaments allowing for the puiblic to vote for change. Whilst there are clear differences between both, Labour will compare political leaderships that have been in power for 14 and 17 years respectfully, and now seemingly putting their party before the country.

The new leader of the SNP, whoever they pick, has an almighty task ahead of them to turn around the fortunes of the Scottish National Party with a resurgent Labour Party snapping at their heels.

Conservative Analysis

Mario Creatura, Director, Public Affairs and former Conservative Downing Street Special Advisor

Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon built the SNP into a seemingly unstoppable political force, dominating Scottish politics with an iron grip on the electorate.

In that context, Labour were essentially locked out of Scotland – unable to win constituencies north of the border, they’d instead need to wrestle control of the Red Wall and Home Counties constituencies from the Conservatives to gain the keys to Downing Street.

That was until Humza Yousaf became First Minister. Elected in the midst of Sturgeon’s scandal, he was always going to find it difficult to lead an SNP/Green coalition in Holyrood.

His poor political decision-making and perceived weakness has boosted Labour morale in recent months, leading them to hope they could take a decent clutch of constituencies in Scotland, reducing pressure on the need to perform well in England.

With Yousaf gone, all eyes will be turned to who comes next. Will the SNP pick someone with the nationalist fire of Salmond and Sturgeon? Will they pick a powerful communicator with a nous for navigating the social issues at the heart of Scottish political debate? In short: will they pick someone that can help the SNP regain control of the narrative, and solidify their crumbling support in key constituencies?

This could be significant. If polls start to close when the election is called then Starmer failing to win as many Scottish seats as previously hoped might make all the difference to the size of his Parliamentary majority.

Whether it’s a speedbump on Labour’s drive to power, or a far more impactful obstacle to scale, will depend on who the SNP pick as the next resident of Bute House.

No pressure.

MHP will be keeping you up to date with the latest news and analysis in this important election year. Please contact [email protected] for further information.

 

International comparison proves the UK is a pioneer in tobacco control

Posted on: April 24th, 2024 by Morgan Arnold

Following its initial announcement at Conservative Party conference last year, the legislation proposed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to gradually ban the sale of tobacco has passed its first vote in Parliament. 

Aiming to create a “smoke-free generation”, the proposals would take effect from January 1st, 2027 and prohibit the sale of tobacco to individuals aged 15 or under.  

This marks a pivotal moment in public health policy. Despite years of anti-smoking measures, more than 6.4 million individuals are still smoking in the UK, and it contributes to approximately 150 new cancer cases daily.  

The UK isn’t unique. Smoking is a huge burden globally, claiming over 8 million lives annually and remains the leading cause of premature death. To alleviate this burden, almost all governments have moved forward with anti-tobacco measures.  

When facing common challenges, countries rarely move in complete isolation. MHP’s Pressures and Perspectives report, published in 2023, highlighted how health policymakers regularly look to other countries and international bodies for policy inspiration, evidence and support.  

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has previously highlighted six countries’ plans to bring in “smoking bans”. Yet, since WEF originally catalogued these national plans in August 2023, some of these countries have backtracked or diluted their proposals.  

That looks unlikely to happen in the UK. 

The ban has significant support among voters of the three main parties, with 72% of Conservative voters, 76% of Labour voters, and 76% of Liberal Democrat voters expressing favour towards the initiative.  

New Zealand: From leader to laggard  

The announcement of the UK’s government’s plans last year drew comparison with New Zealand’s efforts, who on 26 July 2022, were the first country in the world to propose and subsequently pass a tobacco law to ban smoking for the next generation, with implementation planned for July 2024.  

This law was scrapped when a new administration prioritised cigarette sales revenue for tax cuts, sparking debate over short-term financial gains versus long-term public health benefits. This shift highlights the ongoing tension between economic interests and public health priorities in tobacco control strategies. 

In the UK, the scrapping of New Zealand’s plans led to a Telegraph headline ‘Sunak goes it alone’, with Conservative MPs on the right of the party calling Sunak’s plan ‘eccentric’. Clearly, some stakeholders in the UK are leveraging changes in direction in other countries to persuade the government to back down. 

Portugal: Half-measures? 

Meanwhile, Portugal has embarked on its own journey towards a smoke-free future by 2040, introducing legislation to  restrict tobacco sales to certain retailers and prevent the establishment of new smoking areas. However, the government has faced criticism and opposition from trade associations, with the national association of fuel retailers calling the plan unfair and disproportionate.  

Delays and changes to the legislation caused an intervention from national and international medical associations. They castigated the government for their historic inertia and misalignment with World Health Organisation guidance. 

Most of the proposed changes to Portugal’s tobacco law have faced delays following the dissolution of Parliament and subsequent election. Despite this, there have been new standards for heated tobacco products since January 16, 2024. The new (centre right) government is currently being sworn in and we will learn shortly whether Portugal will be more like the UK (where a centre-right Prime Minister is leading an anti-smoking charge) or New Zealand (where a centre-right Prime Minister has abandoned the ambitions of a previously left-wing government).  

Will the UK be a trend-setter? 

With rising costs from non-communicable diseases, particularly among lower-income countries, and the most deprived groups in higher-income countries, we can expect that other countries will be watching closely to gauge the impact of the smoking ban in the UK.  

Interviews with policymakers have shown that if above-country bodies like the World Health Organisation or European Union start to support such action – even without legally binding states – that will accelerate adoption.  

Regardless of its international impact, what is more certain is that the UK smoking ban will be implemented. Cross-party support means that a change of government is unlikely to have the same effect as seen in Portugal or New Zealand. 

 

Political Insider: Overview of the Innovate Finance Global Summit

Posted on: April 16th, 2024 by Morgan Arnold

The Innovate Finance Global Summit (IFGS) celebrated its tenth anniversary this week with leading fintechs, policymakers and investors coming together at London’s Guildhall to discuss the future of UK fintech. Yesterday – the first day of the two-day summit – saw the Prime Minister make an appearance, albeit via video message, to herald the ‘power of technology to make life better for everyone’.

One of the leading themes this year was innovation, and how to encourage technological development through a suitable regulatory environment that provides effective consumer protection. The keynote speakers from Westminster – Bim Afolami MP, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, and Tulip Siddiq MP, Afolami’s Labour Shadow – certainly reinforced the theme throughout their presentations.

For Siddiq, her speech earlier this afternoon was another opportunity to showcase Labour’s vision for financial services, and to woo the sector. Labour’s positioning of itself as the party to be trusted with the economy was reflected in her call for industry to contact her with ideas for Labour’s first 100 days in office… although, it may also be argued this shows the Party is desperate for ideas on how a fiscally constrained Labour administration can achieve its central mission of economic growth.

Day one – 15th April

Bim Afolami, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, gave the opening keynote speech of the day. He highlighted the might of the UK fintech sector, which attracted nearly $5 billion in investment in 2023 (second only to the US). With 86% of digitally active adults in the UK using fintech services, Afolami emphasised the government’s recognition of the sector’s potential to drive economic growth and job creation

To support innovation, the government is developing a regulatory framework for financial data sharing based on fairness, partnership, and safety, and is considering recommendations from the Centre for Finance, Innovation and Technology (CFIT) on open finance. Moreover, Afolami announced the formation of the Open Finance Taskforce (whose inaugural meeting took place at IFGS 2024), the upcoming publication of the National Payments Vision (due before the summer recess, in mid-to-late July), and the government’s focus of putting in place legislation for regulating stablecoin by July 2024 – while emphasising the Conservatives’ commitment to creating a regulatory environment that protects consumers while allowing firms to innovate

The keynote speaker Sarah Breedon, the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, outlined how the Bank is preparing for the radical changes in money and payments that are being driven by rapid technological innovation, aiming to harness the benefits while ensuring consumer safety. This summer the Bank will publish a discussion paper on the payments landscape to gather input and encourage greater collaboration with industry players – the findings from which support HMT’s work in setting out a National Payments Vision.

In other headline news from the day, Innovate Finance’s Unicorn Council for UK FinTech published its six recommendations for policymakers which are designed to maintain the UK’s leading global position in fintech. Core recommendations include the abolition of Stamp Duty, a rethink to regulation, broadening of the tax R&D scheme and business asset disposal relief. The Council also called for updates to the EMI and EIS schemes, as well as the introduction of a VAT-rebate scheme for early stage fintechs.

Day two – 16th April

Today, Tulip Siddiq, Shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury, outlined Labour’s vision for the future of the fintech sector, reiterating the commitments made in the Financial Services Review published in January. A Labour government would provide greater support for international firms to set up in regions across the UK, as well as a skills plan to support, among others, women in fintech.

On regulation, Siddiq echoed the sentiments made by Afolami the day before – that regulation must allow firms to innovate. An effective regulatory environment would help deliver regional growth and empower consumers, and a Labour government will seek to streamline regulation and update the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) 10,000 page regulatory handbook. Moreover, Labour would establish a Regulatory Innovation Office to ensure accountability and transparency in regulatory performance, particularly concerning secondary competitiveness objectives, as well as identifying overlaps in the mandates of different regulators. Finally, Siddiq said Labour would introduce regulation for the Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) industry, reflecting the Party’s commitment to consumer protection.

Other leading news from the day is the speech from the chair of the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR), Aidene Walsh, who provided her reflections on the last year at PSR. She highlighted how 10% of all fintechs currently reside in the UK, outstripping the number in all EU countries combined. This is predicted to increase to 12% by 2030, provided the regulatory environment remains favourable. Ensuring regulation encourages innovation and growth is a core focus of PSR and it is working with industry leaders to achieve this.

Walsh discussed the substantial progress the UK has made on encouraging the adoption of Open Banking, such as HMRC recently making history by becoming the first tax authority in the world to integrate Open Banking into its systems. She also mentioned PSR’s work with FCA to promote change and innovation in the retail payment sector, noting her ambition for Open Banking to create effective competition to cards and retail payments. Walsh also stated her belief that the soon-to-be-published National Payments Vision will set the scene for innovation in the UK fintech sector.

For further information, please contact: [email protected]

Media Network: Issue 2, 2024

Posted on: March 25th, 2024 by Morgan Arnold

In this edition you will find:

  • A discussion on health news you can use from The Sunday Times, Cosmopolitan and Times
  • Insight from FT Sustainable Views Editor Florence Jones
  • An interview with Daily Star Associate Director Tom Hutchinson
  • Advice on catching the attention of the Guardian’s Health and Inequalities Team
  • The latest news on the 2024 MHP Group’s 30 To Watch: Journalism Awards

News you can use…what it means for health and wellness reporting

MHP’s Jaber Mohamed, former reporter at The Mail on Sunday, recently chaired a panel discussion with Times Health Editor Eleanor Hayward, Cosmopolitan Features Editor Jennifer Savin, & Sunday Times Health Editor Shaun Lintern.

The five key takeaways were:

  1. Personal narratives matter: Firsthand, patient-led narratives resonate most effectively with audiences – our panel told us that their editors are demanding to see these before any stories can be run
  2. The informed consumer: People are now more health-aware, scientifically literate and proactive than ever before, prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic when the public communication of science became a daily norm. For brands, this new reality presents an opportunity to cater products and services to the new health-savvy consumer
  3. Going private: With increasing demand for immediate health solutions, there has been a notable surge in private healthcare utilisation, particularly in self-testing and OTC medication. This trend presents an opportunity for brands to provide accessible and informative resources to meet this demand
  4. Rise of health anxiety: However, while heightened awareness of health and wellness continues, there has been a corresponding increase in health-related anxiety among the public caused by the vast arrays of information that’s now available to us, often via the apps and self-tests that we access to tell us about our health
  5. System pressures: With more information comes more anxiety, but also more helpful spotting of early signs or symptoms or flagging up anomalies for medical follow up. Can the already-stretched NHS deal with all this, and what role can brands play in responsibly supporting and filling the information gap?

So what does this mean for reporting?

  • Health journalists are adapting to this evolving landscape, continuing to report on lengthy NHS waiting lists whilst trying to monitor, understand and sometimes debunk continually unfolding fads, social trends, and healthcare solutions.

And for brands?

  • Reporters are now looking for brands to aid in their storytelling by providing accurate, robust, well-balanced data to build trust and authenticity for media and consumer audiences alike.

Experts the order of the day for FT Sustainable Views

By Mathilde Milpied

With an increasing numbers of brands prioritising sustainability as a key pillar of their communications strategies, MHP’s Mathilde Milpied spoke to Florence Jones, Editor of FT Sustainable Views, about what they look for from businesses.

Can you give us an overview of FT Sustainable Views? 

FT Sustainable Views focuses mostly on long-form, in depth and analytical stories rather than covering breaking news. We write data-driven pieces that cover global trends, with both a UK and European focus. We are especially interested in policy and regulation quite policy/regulations focused – and we are often talking to investors and industry actors who can give us their views on specific green policies and how they impact industries.

Do you cover new research and reports? 

Absolutely. We also have a section called the Knowledge Hub, where we publish smaller pieces (usually under 400 words) based on reports and research – the most important criteria being that the research has to be original and say something we haven’t heard before.

How do you like to work with brands and spokespeople?

The main way I like to work with brands is by having timely access to experts and spokespeople who can add genuine value to my stories, whether by giving analysis the impact of specific policies and regulations on an area that affects their companies, or by providing analysis on data she is writing about. My team and I write pretty quickly – our turnaround is usually between two and five days, so having a quick and reliable access to experts is paramount.

We prefer receiving reports and data under embargo, as it allows us to write up the piece and schedule it ahead of the launch date. We’re not fussed about exclusives: most of our content is long form pieces. 

“Spark a reaction” to get into the Daily Star’s pages

Mischief’s Annie Knight recently spoke to Tom Hutchison, Associate Director at the Daily Star about the stories he’s looking to cover in the coming months and the growing role of AI in their reporting.

According to Tom, the Daily Star is always looking for stories that spark a reaction – whether that’s negative or positive – and that start conversations.

Research stories often work too, but they need to appeal to as wider audience as possible so that readers can relate and make a connection to the data. Breaking down research results based on demographics can be of interest. For example, playing off the north-south divide or generational differences. And if the research story can contradict the status quo or usual arguments around such divides, that’s ideal.

Tom also explained how the team is using AI to enhance their reporting. So far its mainly been used to collect information that provides background and context for an article, so that the team can focus on telling the story. While this usually accounts for a fairly small percentage the piece, it saves writers potential hours of work.

Inequality top of the agenda for The Guardian’s Health team

MHP’s Miles Watson spoke to Tobi Thomas, Health and Inequalities Correspondent at the Guardian about the stories and trends that likely to catch her eye this year.

How does your team operate? 

We’re a team of four – in a typical week we will divvy up press releases, announcements and reports etc. between us and then have our own stories or areas of focus that we’ll be working on.

Alongside general health you cover health inequalities – what’s your definition of that?

It’s a broad term but I understand it as the background reasons which affect people’s health, which could be demographic, socioeconomic, geographic or related to how easily they can access or engage with the NHS.  It’s becoming better understood in public consciousness, especially since the pandemic, but I still think there is more that needs to be done to raise awareness of it.

What kind of stories are you looking out for?

Obviously, the general election and how the parties talk about the NHS will be a big focus for me and the team. In particular, we’ll be looking out for how the parties’ manifestos will talk about the high waiting lists and the ongoing impact of strikes. I’m also interested in mental health and whether any reforms are planned to the Mental Health Act. Beyond this, I’d like to cover stories about maternal health and those which explore discrepancies in life expectancies.

What makes a good health inequalities story for the Guardian?

We need the story to be relevant or pegged to a big report or release of data – there is so much to say about health inequalities that is contained within the data. Case studies are good but really need to be tied to the main story or extremely powerful in their own right.  For example, at the beginning of this year there was a landmark data-driven reportfrom the Institute of Health Equity led by Sir Michael Marmot, the leading health inequalities expert.  I supplemented this by writing a case study about the positive results the city of Coventry is seeing since it became a ‘Marmot City’, meaning all council-commissioned public services have to take into account the impact they have on the health equity of its citizens.

MHP Group’s 30 To Watch: Journalism Awards 2024 is open for entries

By James Rollinson

Back for its 13th year, entries are now open for the MHP 30 To Watch Journalism Awards.  

Celebrating the most talented and influential young journalists in the UK across 10 categories including News & Investigations, Production, Lifestyle, Culture & Entertainment, they are free to enter are open to any journalist aged 30 and younger working across national, regional and trade media.

2024 also sees the introduction a new category, Sport, to mark a momentous year which will see Team GB head to the Paris Olympics and Paralympics, Scotland, England and hopefully Wales’ mens’ football teams compete in Euro 202, two cricket T20 World Cups alongside annual milestones such as Wimbledon and the British Open.

This year’s judging panel is made up of of more than 20 senior editors from across the UK media spectrum, including Former Head of Sky News John Ryley, Good Morning Britain’s Head of Politics Anne Alexander, BBC Breakfast EditorRichard Frediani, PA Media Head of Entertainment & Features Kerri-Ann Roper and Robert Guest, Deputy Editor of The Economist.

Entries close on 19th April, with the awards ceremony taking place on 29th May at the News UK building.

See here for further information: Journalism 2024 | MHP (mhpgroup.com)

Political Insider: Rachel Reeves’ economic vision for the UK

Posted on: March 20th, 2024 by Morgan Arnold

A prestigious rite of passage for Shadow Chancellors before her, Reeves drew parallels to 1970s Britain, arguing that we are in a moment of flux, and that the solution is an “active government” underpinned by theories of “Securonomics” and driven by three imperatives: stability, investment, and reform.

What did we learn from the Shadow Chancellor?

Securonomics

  • Drawing comparisons to Harvard Economist Dani Rodrick’s “new productivist paradigm” and the Biden administration’s commitment to “modern supply side economics”, Reeves defined Securonomics as a broad-based “platform from which to take risks” and embrace change with stability of action.
  • Spoke of the benefits of an “active” and “strategic” (“not big”) state, which she suggested was an economic imperative to protect Britain from global instability.

Stability

  • Pledged that a Labour government would retain a 2% inflation target.
  • Labour would make financial institutions and FTSE 100 companies publish carbon footprints and would create a UK green taxonomy.
  • Recognised that businesses need stability in tax, she also pledged that Labour would hold a single autumn budget every year; cap incorporation tax at 25% and row back on business taxation for the duration of parliament.
  • Labour would move the current budget into balance and would target government debt to fall as a % of GDP by the fifth year of the OBR’s forecast.
  • Labour would end the changing of fiscal rules, adding an escape clause that would only be used to suspend existing tax rules if the OBR could officially declare the UK was in an economic crisis.
  • Commented that Labour would focus on day-to-day spending, prioritising investment within a framework which would get debt falling at a share of our GDP over the medium term.
  • Noted that Labour would reverse the current Chancellor’s decision to remove climate change from a list of four objectives for the Financial Policy Committee and Monetary Policy Committee.

Partnership with businesses to encourage investment

  • Noted Labour’s desire to work with business to identify areas where Britain can develop comparative advantage.
  • Pledged that Labour would review the pension system to ensure that it is serving British savers and UK plcs.
  • Labour would end the practice of one-to-three-year funding cycles for key Research and Development institutions, instead outlining 10 year budgets which would allow for meaningful partnership with industry.
  • Commented Labour would work with universities to make sure spin outs can attract private capital.

Reform

  • Suggested that our current planning system is a barrier to economic growth and home ownership, pledging that Labour would carry out a once in a generation overhaul of nationally significant projects, updating all national policy statements within six months of coming into office to reflect the type of infrastructure crucial to our economy.
  • Labour would reintroduce mandatory local housing targets, and recruit hundreds of new town planners to tackle the backlog.
  • Highlighted the benefit of decentralisation, correlating it with higher investment, stronger growth possibilities and better educational outcomes. She said that Labour would give greater economic power to regional and local leaders, who “know their leads and assets best.”
  • Commented that the “broken” apprenticeship levy would be replaced by a growth and skills levy.
  • Pledged a “new deal for working people,” which would guarantee basic rights from day one, protection from unfair dismissal, sick pay, and parental leave; ban zero hours contracts and reverse Trade Union legislation introduced since 2010. She noted that none of this would impede businesses’ abilities to fairly dismiss employees or offer overtime/hire on the basis of short-term demand.
  • Recognised that a productive workforce required stronger public services. She re-stated Labour’s pledge to urgently resource injection into public services to get the long-term sick back into work.

Labour Insight on Reeves-ism

Joshua Kaile, Public Affairs, Associate Director and former Labour Party advisor

Depending on who you read or listen to, Rachel Reeves speech last night at the Mais Lecture was either indicating a return to New Labour, a move to radical economics, or a continuation of Tory and Rishi Sunak’s economic rules.

The Conservative accusation is that Rachel Reeves has no plan, but risks borrowing too much to invest in the growth she has promised.

The charge from some of the trade unions, most notably Unite, and those on the far left is that Reeves plans are too close to the Tories. What is the point of a Labour Government if it doesn’t look like one, they ask.

And then there are others who claim that the Shadow Chancellor is following the fiscal rules of Gordon Brown and therefore it’s a ‘return to New Labour’.

So, whilst the Tories say she’s like Corbyn, the unions say she’s like Thatcher and others claim she’s like Brown, the truth is that none of these charges quite fit.

Perhaps we need to stop trying to compare Rachel Reeves to somebody or something else. With Labour holding a commanding lead in the polls, the UK is close to having its first female Chancellor. An extraordinary achievement, smashing the remaining glass ceiling at the Treasury.

So, who is Rachel Reeves and what will a Treasury lead by her really look like?

What we know is that Rachel prioritises fiscal responsibility and is not afraid to be a Labour Shadow Chancellor stating so clearly. She will not be nudged into any direction she is uncomfortable with, and so the comparisons to Thatcher are real and fair in that respect.

But in her speech last night, Rachel made clear that she will drive forward the party’s New Deal for Working People with commitments to end zero-hours contracts and protecting workers from unfair dismissal amongst other rights. And there the comparisons to Margaret Thatcher come to a crashing halt.

The Shadow Chancellor talked eloquently about the need for investment, driven by new institutions including Labour’s National Wealth Fund and Great British Energy. This goes beyond what Gordon Brown and New Labour every managed to deliver, so accusations that she is returning to the ‘noughties’ doesn’t really stack up.

Indeed, this level of investment is closer to that promised by the two previous Labour leaders, but with one key difference. Rachel’s clear fiscal rules, including matching the Tories pledge to reduce debt as a share of GDP on a five-year basis. Her pitch to the public is that she will deliver economic growth, without borrowing too much, and use that growth to drive further investment, raising living standards for those across the country. Not just in London and the South-East.

The Tories will continue to say that this is simply not possible, and that Labour will have to borrow more or raise taxes to deliver it. Unfortunately for them, after 14 years of Conservative rule and Liz Truss’s brief but disastrous premiership, the public simply doesn’t trust them anymore.

Rachel may be often simply referred to as ‘the iron shadow chancellor’ but in private she would be just as happy being described as ‘the campaigning shadow chancellor’. And in that I think we see what a Rachel Reeves Treasury will look like. Fiscally responsible and putting growth front and centre. But whenever she is able to, we will see her drive improving living standards, and ensuring the burden lies with those with the broadest shoulders.

With a General Election just a matter of months away, it’s time we stop comparing Rachel to others and start learning what Reeves-ism really is.

MHP’s Public Affairs team will be keeping you up to date with the latest news and analysis in this important election year. Please contact [email protected] Head of Public Affairs for further information.

#InspireInclusion: Bridging data disparities to empower women from ethnic minorities in the UK

Posted on: March 8th, 2024 by Morgan Arnold

Despite advancements, data in healthcare, (or the lack of it) consistently show that women face unique challenges in accessing quality care and are disproportionately affected by health inequalities, especially women from ethnic minorities. This International Women’s Day (IWD), MHP explores the importance of addressing the gender health gap to empower women, especially those from ethnic minorities and foster inclusive practices, aligning with the spirit of International Women’s Day. 

In September 2023, the charity Wellbeing of Women, in association with MHP Group, convened the ‘Health Collective’ – a group of grassroots organisations passionate and committed to improving women’s health for all women, especially those from marginalised backgrounds. This Health Collective united to ensure improved inclusivity and outcomes in healthcare for Black women and other ethnic minorities. 

As we celebrate International Women’s Day in 2024 under the theme of “inspiring inclusion,” it is crucial to address and recognise the persistent disparities in healthcare access and outcomes that women face. Currently, the UK has the widest gender health gap in the G20 and the twelfth largest globally. 

A recent report published by McKinsey, entitled ‘Closing the women’s health gap: a $1 trillion opportunity to improve lives and economies revealed that in Canada and the UK, just 5.9 percent of grants between 2009-2020 went to research that looked at female-specific outcomes or women’s health. The data for research grants into women’s health from ethnic minorities is not readily available but is assumed to be drastically lower than 5.9 percent. In the UK, less than 2.5 percent of publicly funded research goes into reproductive health. It is very difficult to #inspireinclusion when these gaps in data exist.  

Dr Aziza Sesay, GP educator, Honorary Senior Clinical lecturer, host, speaker, health content creator and member of the Health Collective, said: 

“The theme for International Women’s Day, which is ‘inspiring inclusion’, is not about tokenism. Rather, it’s about thoroughly examining systems and working to improve them in order to benefit everyone. Data plays a crucial role in ensuring better outcomes for women, but often the methods of collecting this data are not accessible to all and can lead to biased results. The Health Collective, comprised of grassroots organisations, is essential in bridging gaps in these methods and building trust, while also amplifying the voices and expanding the reach of organisations already making a positive impact that can lead to better outcomes.” 

Health Inequalities Among Women from Ethnic Minorities: 

Women from ethnic minorities in the UK experience a multitude of health inequalities. In their report, the Health Collective identified that these range from higher rates of maternal mortality to increased prevalence of certain chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. These disparities are influenced by various factors, including socioeconomic status, language barriers, and systemic racism within the healthcare system.  

The report identified barriers marginalised groups are facing in accessing women’s health services and highlights inadequate gathering of health data as a barrier. This results in the emergence of significant evidence discrepancies in vital domains such as maternal mortality. Women are frequently more likely to be misdiagnosed and wrongly prescribed medicines due to the fact that they are underrepresented in medical research. Consequently, policies and interventions formulated on incomplete information fail to address underlying inequities. For example, women are 50 percent more likely to get an initial wrong diagnosis when they’re having a heart attack as ‘common symptoms’ are based off research which is reliant on the male experience. Additionally, whilst 1 in 10 women in the UK suffer from endometriosis, it takes around seven and a half years to get a diagnosis and women are frequently misdiagnosed due to the lack of research on this condition.  

Empowering Women Through Data-Driven Interventions: 

Data-driven interventions play a crucial role in empowering women from ethnic minorities to take control of their health and well-being. By leveraging data to identify high-risk populations, tailor interventions to specific cultural contexts, and monitor progress over time, healthcare providers can deliver more effective and equitable care. Furthermore, involving women, especially those from ethnic minorities in the co-design and implementation of healthcare initiatives ensures that services are appropriate and impactful for all, leading to improved outcomes and responsive healthcare services. 

The start of this year has brought some promising advancements and initiatives in this area. At the Women’s Health Summit, the Health Secretary, Rt Hon Victoria Atkins MP, said that in Britain, Black women are almost three times more likely to die whilst giving birth or shortly after than white women. Atkins also said that women of Asian ethnic backgrounds are 1.67 times more likely to die whilst giving birth or shortly after than white women.  Describing these figures as completely unacceptable, the Health Secretary announced the launch of the first ‘Research Challenge’ worth £50 million to tackle and address these maternity disparities from the National Institute for Health and Care Research. In short, the existence of such data paves the way for change.  

Similar schemes by industry are needed to ensure consistent and regular funding for grassroots organisations, diversity in clinical trials and providing resources to drive research, innovation and development. By investing in these programmes, industry can help change the paradigm of women’s health and ensure better healthcare outcomes for all. 

Conclusion: 

Despite positive movements, it is clear that progress is slow. Hologic, a leading innovator in women’s health, in their recent report and call to action, have concluded that women’s health is in a state of emergency, not just in the UK but globally. Data serves as a critical tool for understanding and addressing health disparities. Therefore, improving available data and ensuring inclusion in healthcare research are essential steps towards promoting inclusive healthcare practices.  

As we celebrate International Women’s Day in 2024, we must reaffirm the commitment to inspiring inclusion in healthcare by addressing data disparities and health inequalities among women and especially women from ethnic minorities in the UK. Industry, Government and health systems need to work together to ensure that the health of women is prioritised. By harnessing the power of data to inform policy and practice, fostering cultural competence within healthcare systems, and empowering women to actively participate in their own care, we can create a more equitable and inclusive healthcare landscape for all women, regardless of ethnicity or background.  

Political Insider: Spring Budget, 2024

Posted on: March 6th, 2024 by Morgan Arnold

It has become commonplace for details of a budget to be ‘leaked’ to the press before being formally announced to Parliament, save for one or two ‘rabbit out of the hat’ policies intended to woo voters. While we saw multiple leaks, many have been left wondering where the rabbit was hiding in today’s announcement.

After 14 years in government, the Conservative Party has been accused of lacking fresh ideas on how to meet its self-allocated priorities – being ‘rabbit-less’, if you will. Arguably, this is reinforced by its pinching of Labour’s policy on reforming rules for people with non-domiciled status in the UK today.

Jeremy Hunt spoke often of the need for lower taxes as a stimulus for economic growth. He announced as ‘tax cuts’ the freezes on fuel duty and alcohol duty, additional ‘expensing’ relief for businesses, stamp duty relief, reducing the higher 28% capital gains tax rate for residential properties and – as his headline actual tax cut – a 2% reduction in employee national insurance (NI). In conjunction with the 2% NI cut introduced after the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor argues this will provide 27 million employees with an additional £900 a year.

Notably, the basic rate of income tax was not cut – a measure which would likely have had greater cut through with voters. Nor were changes made to the tax thresholds, which have been frozen in cash terms since April 2021 and have resulted in thousands of earners being dragged into higher rates.

Hunt made much of the latest forecast from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) which predicts inflation will drop below the Conservative’s 2% target “in just a few months’ time” – nearly a year earlier than previously forecast. This, argued Hunt, is proof that the Conservative’s plan for long-term growth is working, and that voters should stick with the government at the next election.

Time will tell whether Hunt’s announcements have done enough to turn around the Conservative’s electoral fortunes – in other words, are the additional cuts to NI enough of a rabbit?

At a glance, the core measures announced by the Chancellor today:

  • Main rate of employee NI contributions cut from 10% to 8%
  • For the self-employed, main rate of Class 4 NI cut from 9% to 6%.
  • Abolishment of non-dom status
  • High Income Child Benefit Charge threshold raised to £60,000
  • Freeze on alcohol duty
  • Five pence cut to fuel duty maintained and rates frozen for the fourteenth consecutive year
  • Cut on capital gains tax on residential property sales
  • Increase in the VAT registration threshold for small businesses, from £85,000 to £90,000
  • £2.45 billion for NHS support and reform, alongside new £3.4 billion productively plan
  • A new duty on vapes
  • New British ISA to be introduced
  • Scrapping of the furnished holiday lets regime
  • Military spending to rise to 2.5% of GDP “as soon as economic conditions allow”
  • Maintaining of 1% increase in day-to-day public spending above inflation
  • £160 million invested on two nuclear sites and £120 million for green industries to develop technologies
  • Windfall tax on North Sea oil and gas companies to conclude in 2029

The political impact of today’s budget for the Conservative Party.

Mario Creatura, Director, Public Affairs and former Conservative Downing Street Special Advisor

There is significant demand for greater public spending, from a public that also hopes for much-needed tax cuts to ease the cost-of-living burden. These are two tricky, bucking horses that the Chancellor today attempted to ride simultaneously – all compounded by a Parliamentary party that want him to do more of everything, to have done it yesterday, but without any real consensus on what ‘everything’ actually entails. It’s that lack of political clarity that has made this Budget more challenging for the Chancellor than otherwise would or should be the case.

With the 2p cut in National Insurance, a cut in fuel duty, reforms to childcare and VAT support for SMEs, Hunt will be hoping that tonight’s headlines will reward him with positive tax cutting coverage.

But it’s the political manoeuvrings on scaling back the non-dom tax regime and extending the tax on oil and gas company profits that may be more significant over the coming months. Both were similar to proposals Labour pledged to implement, with the resulting funds being used to fund a variety of measures. Shadow Cabinet spokespeople have been at pains to say the extra spending commitments won’t change, even though they’ll need to desperately source the funds from elsewhere.

In true pantomime fashion Labour have thrown their toys out of the pram over this. How dare a politician seek to play politics at one of the key political moments in the calendar! Yet these howls of injustice will come to nothing as the inquiring narrative from their opposition and press are already asking: how will you fund these cast-iron pledges now? What taxes will go up or services will be cut?

These core questions are designed to expose a key battleground over the coming months. Who is to be more trusted on the economy? The Conservatives with their recent turbulent fiscal performance or Labour, with a plan but no way to pay for it?

“Great Budgets change history,” proclaimed Jeremy Hunt shortly before he stood at the Despatch Box today – he will be hoping that his Budget boxes Labour into a corner, one that gives the Conservatives the edge they need to get back in the General Election-winning game.

The political impact of the budget for the Labour Party.

Josh Kaile, Public Affairs, Associate Director and former Labour Party advisor


The Chancellor used a lot of words in his speech, but ‘recession’ was not one of them. Indeed, you would be forgiven for forgetting that the UK is actually in a recession right now.

But never fear, Keir Starmer was only too happy to remind the country of ‘Rishi’s Recession’ when he stood up to respond to the Budget.

Labour’s attack on the Tories has centred around the government delivering the highest tax burden in 70 years. Keir made sure to remind anyone listening that taxes are rising, prices are soaring and mortgages are higher. People across the country are feeling worse off, not better.

So, the question today is whether Jeremy Hunt has been able to challenge that narrative and show that the Conservatives are tackling the cost-of-living crisis and making people feel better off.

Will people feel better off from a 2p cut in National Insurance? Will people feel better with a freeze in alcohol and fuel duties? The Chancellor is gambling that they will.

The opposition’s pitch is that a Labour Budget would be focused on creating decent jobs, building 1.5 million new homes and the industries for the future. In a word, it’s about ‘growth’.

Keir also pointed out that if the Tories really did believe in ending the ‘non-dom’ tax break, other than using it for political manoeuvring, they would have introduced it years ago. They could have delivered 3.8 million NHS operations or provided free breakfast clubs for schools across the country.

Instead, he claims the government are putting the Conservative Party first and the country second.

The Leader of the Opposition ended the political give-away session from the Chancellor by calling for a General Election on 2ndMay. I suspect this will see the Prime Minister being followed by a life-sized chicken when he inevitably fails to deliver. We may be months away from an election now, but the campaign has well and truly started.

The City’s reaction

Charlie Barker, Managing Director, Capital Markets

Ever since former Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s infamous not-so-mini Budget almost downed the UK bond markets 18 months ago, his successor has taken care to avoid spooking markets. So it was no surprise that today’s announcement from Jeremy Hunt was in line with the headline measures leaked to the media in recent days.

But there was still some new news for the City to cheer.

Beyond the rosier than expected growth forecasts from the OBR, ears will have been pricked by the announcement of a new “British ISA”. The measure, which had been long rumoured, will allow savers an additional £5,000 to invest tax-free each year as long as they put that money into UK-listed shares.

That will have pleased many in the City who have been lobbying for such a move in recent months to boost demand for UK stocks. But they may have also been disappointed by what was absent. There was, for example, no sign of a move to scrap stamp duty on buying shares, which critics argue puts off international investors.

As the Chancellor raced through the rest of his section on City reforms, there may have been a sense of an opportunity missed. However, the initial reaction of the UK-company focused FTSE 250 Index – moving to its highest level of the day, up 1.2% by the end of his speech – suggests that overall the City reaction has been a positive one.

Health Insight

The health policy community were not expecting much in terms of health and social care in today’s Budget, with the Chancellor intending to cut taxes ahead of the next General Election. However, as part of his plan to drive investment for ‘more jobs, better public services and lower taxes’, Jeremy Hunt announced investment into the life sciences sector and the NHS.

NHS productivity has been a hot topic, as more money is being spent on the NHS compared with pre-pandemic levels, yet fewer patients are being treated. Therefore, Jeremy Hunt’s plans to fully fund an NHS Productivity Plan will be welcomed. The £3.4 billion investment aims to modernise the NHS and make their IT systems more efficient, which the Chancellor noted would help unlock £35 billion in costs savings. This funding will:

  • Streamline operations by reducing 13 million hours lost due to IT system inefficiencies
  • Use AI to significantly decrease form filling by doctors
  • Digitise operating theatre processes to enable an additional 200,000 operations annually
  • Utilise AI to help doctors read MRI and CT scans more quickly, speeding up results for 130,000 patients per year
  • Enhance the NHS app to manage appointments effectively, potentially cutting missed appointments in half

It is promising that the narrative ‘invest to save’ is being utilised in this instance, as we recognise decision-makers are not always able to consider the longer-term benefits of upfront investments – be it digital technologies, capital infrastructure, or more innovative medicines – with the NHS experiencing significant financial pressures. However, whilst the Chancellor has kept the 1% real terms growth increase in public spending and increased funding to the NHS, health is more than the NHS. He has reversed planned increases to NI from earlier budgets planned to fund social care – potentially leading to delayed discharges from hospital – already a major brake on improvements in NHS productivity. In addition, whilst the Chancellor has provided additional funding for hospital care through diagnostics and surgery under the public service productivity plan, productivity in the NHS is also improved by preventing people from becoming sick – and there has been no extra funding for those services.

While no additional funding has been provided to stop people becoming sick, Jeremy Hunt has announced the UK Government’s decision to implement a tax on vaping and e-cigarettes. With the aim of discouraging non-smokers from taking up vaping, Mr Hunt confirmed the introduction of an excise duty on vaping products starting 26th October, along with the publication of a consultation on its design. Recognising the potential of vapes to aid smoking cessation, the Government will simultaneously raise tobacco duty to maintain the financial incentive for individuals to choose vaping over smoking. This tax on vaping and cigarettes will be welcomed, but the simultaneous freeze of the alcohol duty – another risk factor for many diseases – may seem incoherent policy to those interested in prevention.

For Life Sciences, Jeremy Hunt outlined the £45 million allocation towards medical research aimed at the development of new treatments for conditions including cancer, dementia, and epilepsy. This funding will be complemented by a significant boost to the UK’s pharmaceutical manufacturing capabilities, with a £650 million investment by AstraZeneca. This investment is earmarked for the establishment of a new vaccine manufacturing hub in Liverpool, and the expansion of their biomedical campus in Cambridge. This additional investment, beyond those outlined in the Autumn Statement, indicates that the election period will not lead to a dramatic break in policy toward the life sciences.

Further information

MHP will be keeping you up to date with the latest news and analysis in this important election year. Please contact [email protected] (Public Affairs) or [email protected] (Health) for further information.

Navigating consumer health trends: Insights from leading health journalists

Posted on: February 22nd, 2024 by Morgan Arnold

The healthcare landscape is continually changing, driven by the unprecedented access to information at our fingertips. The increase in public health knowledge has sparked heightened interest in public health interventions, evident in the widespread support for recent initiatives such as smoking and vaping bans and action on obesity. This momentum may further drive discussions on issues such as the need for guidance on ultra-processed foods. 

The expansion of digital health tools, including wearable devices, coupled with the abundance of information on platforms like social media, has empowered individuals to take a more proactive role in managing their wellbeing. However, as information consumption continues to shift, with platforms like TikTok becoming increasingly influential, journalists face the challenge of navigating rapidly evolving trends and fads, such as vitamin-based hangover cures, to maintain readership. 

Amidst this saturation of information, it’s important to examine the benefits and drawbacks it brings. How can communicators, both in the media and within brands, adapt to the self-care revolution, where the public has unlimited access to enhanced health information? 

To explore these questions, we were joined by experts including Eleanor Hayward, Health Editor at The Times; Jennifer Savin, Features Editor at Cosmopolitan; and Shaun Lintern, Health Editor at The Sunday Times. Their insights offer valuable guidance for brands seeking to navigate and capitalise on the opportunities presented by this evolving landscape. 

Benefits to enhanced health information:

1. Increased health awareness and literacy amongst the public 

The public is becoming increasingly informed, proactive, and scientifically literate. This shift, partly fuelled by the COVID-19 pandemic and the constant flow of information across various media channels, presents a valuable opportunity for brands to tailor their services to meet the needs of the increasingly health-conscious consumer.  

2. People are taking ownership and responsibility for their health and flagging symptoms early  

With NHS wait times at record highs, many are turning to private healthcare and self-testing from pharmacies, particularly for illnesses such as tonsilitis, UTIs, and COVID-19. Brands can play a crucial role in providing accessible information resources to meet the growing demand. 

 Drawbacks to enhanced health information

1. Health anxiety is on the rise  

As awareness continues to grow, so does the prevalence of health-related anxiety amongst the public. This stems from the wealth of information accessible to us, often through apps and self-tests. 

2. Growing system pressures and information gap due to private testing  

The rise of self-testing creates a potential gap in professional follow-up, adding to the strain on already burdened healthcare systems. Can brands support this emerging issue by responsibly filling the information gap and fostering trust? 

So, what is the role of communicators in navigating these effects and how do they adapt their storytelling? 

Personal and audience-centric messaging is essential to drive engagement 

  • First-hand patient-led stories resonate the most with consumer audiences, as people seek personal connections and real-world impacts of health interventions – our panel mentioned that these are essential for any story to be covered. 
  • Complex scientific details should be presented in a clear, concise, and easily digestible manner, with supplementary information available for those who delve deeper. This ensures accessibility and understanding for a wider audience. 

Balanced and nuanced storytelling is key to build trust 

  • The panel emphasised the necessity to conduct thorough due diligence, share peer-reviewed studies, and offer independent expert opinions, to ensure credible and transparent reporting.  
  • Brands can support journalists with this by providing accurate and robust data, and readily addressing any product concerns to build trust with both media and consumers. 

The need to address inequalities in studies and messaging 

  • Journalists aim to ensure that their reporting considers disparities across age, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity to provide a comprehensive understanding of health issues. Where possible, brands should also offer this breakdown of information to ensure their storytelling is balanced and inclusive.  

For more information contact [email protected] 

Political Insider: By-election bonanza for Labour

Posted on: February 16th, 2024 by Morgan Arnold

Will Labour be partying like it is 1997?

The results are pretty stark reading. Labour managed to overturn a Conservative majority in the Northamptonshire seat of Wellingborough of 18,500; the swing of 28.6 per cent was the biggest shift of support to Labour recorded since the Second World War.

On the other side of the country in Kingswood – where the by-election was forced by the Government’s former net zero guru Chris Skidmore resigning in a fit of pique over Sunak’s environmental stance – a majority of 11,200 was pulped by Labour.

What will be worrying the Prime Minister is the ascent of the Reform Party. In both by-elections, it secured more than 10 per cent of the vote, the first time it had reached that milestone. Expect yet more calls from the Tory backbenches for a right-ward turn.

Labour have now taken six seats off the Conservatives since July. Over the course of this Parliament the Conservatives have lost 10 by-elections, the worst record of any government in 50 years and worse even than the sleaze stained death rattles of the Major administration in the 1990s.

Things can only get better for Sunak, but Keir Starmer will know that while today is undoubtedly encouraging, some danger lurks on the horizon. The next by-election in Rochdale will not be as easy a ride, a result of the party’s now disowned candidate’s conspiracy theorising on Israel and Palestine.

Labour viewpoint

By Joshua Kaile, Former Labour Political Advisor

They say a week is a long time in politics. Today that feels like an understatement.

This time last week, the Labour Party had just ended its high-profile commitment to spend £28 billion a year on green policies. The Conservatives, Labour left, and environmental groups criticised the move, albeit for varying reasons.

Then, on Monday Labour withdrew support for its candidate in the Rochdale by-election following controversial comments he made about the 7 October attacks on Israel. To make the situation even worse, the decision meant Labour had no time to find a replacement.

All this has led to over-the-top remarks from many commentators about Keir Starmer’s leadership and claims that we are about to see Labour lose their previously insurmountable leads in the polls.

So, this morning as we all look at another two stunning by-election victories for Labour, overturning significant Tory majorities, whilst the problems of the last week haven’t disappeared entirely, they are put into better context.

Labour has internal challenges they need to address, that much is clear. But they are facing a Conservative Government that is showing its age and seeming to have MPs eager for a spell in opposition to work out what they really believe in.

After numerous attempts at rebooting his party, Rishi Sunak seemed to have settled on a narrative that he was starting to turn things around, and that the country shouldn’t mess that up by voting for a Labour Government. But with the country now technically in a recession, the Tories have not been able to gain back any semblance of fiscal responsibility.

Keir Starmer’s Labour Party needed their own reboot moment this week, and the victories in the Wellingborough and Kingswood by-elections look like they have provided them precisely that. Tougher and more regular challenges lie ahead in a General Election, but with May now looking unlikely (what Government wants to fight a cost-of-living election whilst in a recession?) Labour has more time to ensure it is in tip top shape to handle whatever is thrown at it.

Conservative viewpoint

By Mario Creatura, Former Special Advisor to Theresa May

Oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them.

That old political maxim was given new credence in the early hours of this morning when the results from the two Parliamentary by-elections came in.

Unlike opinion polls, by-elections are the chance to see what real voters in a real election context think. Whilst it was clearly not a good night for the Conservatives, beneath the headline result it was hardly a ringing endorsement of Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour.

Turnout was halved in both constituencies by almost the same percentage of Conservative votes. The Conservative voters of 2019 appear to have stayed at home in their droves – motivating them over the coming months will be key for Rishi Sunak.

In Kingswood the votes cast for Labour were more than 5,000 votes lower than they received in the seat in 2019. Now, by-elections always receive a lower turnout, but the size of Labour’s increase in both Wellingborough and Kingswood is almost half the size of the Conservative vote reduction. The voters here were not enthused enough to come out for Labour.

Psephological pundits will be reminding us today that by-elections are not the same as General Elections. The former is often used to send a message, to punish the incumbent. You have to be an especially motivated voter to take part in an election that you know won’t change the outcome of who runs the United Kingdom.

General Elections are a different kettle of fish entirely – expect turnouts of over 70% versus the 30-40% in a by-election. A different profile of voter is therefore engaged, it’s simply more important and therefore the frames of reference for voters will be much wider, and harder to predict.

In so far as we can infer anything, yesterday’s by-election results offer two main conclusions: firstly that the Conservatives are presently losing the confidence of the voter coalition that so successfully delivered them their 2019 victory. But perhaps more importantly, voters aren’t sold on Labour’s vision. They aren’t enthusiastically rushing to the polling booths to endorse Starmer, they’re instead reluctantly ticking the box simply to oust the Conservatives.

Labour will be publicly pleased with the result, but the apparatchiks in Conservative HQ will not be too disheartened – if a week is a long time in politics, then an Autumn election is an eternity away.

The Conservatives will remain determined that it’s all still to play for. The most successful election winning machine in British history is just getting warmed up.

The MHP Public Affairs Team will be keeping you up to date with the latest news and analysis in this important election year. Please contact [email protected] for further information.