8 Nov 2019

This piece of analysis was written by James Crouch, Political Researcher at Opinium, in partnership with Hanover.

The starting gun has been fired on the first real week of the campaign. In the midst of gaffes, resignations on both sides and the first rally from the prime minister, it is important to remember that where this campaign starts is not necessarily where it will finish.

Yes, the Conservative Party has a clear double digit lead in the polls (for now). Yes, this is because they’ve successfully framed the run up to the election as a vote on Brexit (for now) and, yes, Labour has so far failed to unite the coalition of voters that gave the party such a good showing in 2017 (but only for now).

Brexit: The only game in town?

By accident or by design, Boris Johnson has successfully used Brexit to his own advantage as an issue. In our first poll of the campaign, just over half (52%) of voters said that Brexit was one of the most important issues facing the country and two in five (40%) said it would be the single most important issue in deciding their vote.

Listening to the prime minister’s first rally you could be forgiven for thinking this election won’t be the ‘parliament versus the people’ election, but a far more complex debate where ‘getting Brexit done’ means he can talk about the economy, health, crime and a whole series of other issues.

This will be a pleasant surprise for some, especially in business. We have all heard the expletive-laden diatribe against business attributed to Mr Johnson when he was foreign secretary. It seemed to talk to a particular type of voter, setting them up in opposition to business.

Economic competence: Conservatives still in the driving seat

Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid, as the Conservatives’ economic team, have a pretty strong lead of 18 points over Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell when it comes to who is most trusted to handle the economy (39% to 21% respectively). There were concerns that the Conservatives were losing their reputation for sound economic management. Despite these, their lead on this is actually not too dissimilar to the 19-point lead Theresa May and Philip Hammond had in 2017 or the 14-point lead David Cameron and George Osborne had in 2015.

Also reassuringly for the Conservatives, business leaders remain more likely than the public as a whole to trust the Conservatives on this. Amongst senior directors and managers in our latest poll, Johnson and Javid have a 27-point lead over Corbyn and McDonnell on who is most trusted on the economy. But they may come at it from a slightly different perspective, as business leaders think the economy is broadly in a good shape (42% good vs 26% bad), compared to the wider population who are far more evenly balanced (31% good vs 29% bad).

It is this difference which might challenge business leaders over the coming weeks. The Conservatives might be trusted more by senior people in business, but the party’s economic message will need to work amongst those who do not see things either from that side of the divide or with the longer-term picture in mind. Do not expect the Conservatives’ economic line in this campaign to be as obviously well-aligned or closely associated with businesses as many might have hoped.