In a recent, widely shared piece for Renewal, IPR Director Professor Nick Pearce and Gavin Kelly reflect on the difficult circumstances that a future Labour government will face – a stagnant economy, household hardship, political volatility and a weakened state. Addressing these challenges, they argue, will require the party to carefully craft a programme of economic reform while fleshing out its intellectual foundations – and maintaining a broad coalition of support.
How should we think about the prospective governing agenda of an incoming Labour government in 2024? Labour administrations have often come to power after long periods of Conservative or Conservative-led government, as they did in 1945, 1964 and 1997, borne into office on the back of accumulated popular demands for national renewal and social change. By contrast, when Labour has replaced single-term or short-lived predecessors, as it did in 1924, 1929 and 1974, the party has entered power as a precarious minority government or an administration resting on a barely workable majority. Labour has also often inherited significant, crisis-laden economic challenges on taking office, and if Labour forms a government in 2024 or early 2025, it would likely face a combination of these circumstances: fundamental economic problems and pressure for social reform that have steadily built up since the party’s defeat in 2010, twinned with the political precarity and electoral volatility generated by weakening partisan allegiance and a decade of crises and shocks ranging from the Scottish independence referendum to Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the invasion of Ukraine.
How a Labour government responds to these circumstances would be shaped by at least three factors: the precise economic inheritance of the new government; its own ideology and the wider climate of ideas; and the nature of the electoral and political-economic coalitions that have brought it to power. Doubtless there are other issues that will be of interest to political commentators, such as political leadership, party management and administrative capability, but we choose to focus here on the factors we consider most important to understanding the agenda and prospects of a putative Labour government.
Read the full article: ‘Riders on the Storm’: what would a Labour government face? (Renewal, open access)
Gavin Kelly worked at 10 Downing Street as Gordon Brown’s Deputy Chief of Staff, and a member of the Number 10 Policy Unit under Tony Blair. Nick Pearce is Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Bath, and previously Head of the Number 10 Policy Unit.