Gabe Winn

By Gabe Winn

Bizarrely, this week ended quite well for Jeremy Corbyn, with two good performances in televised debates almost taking the edge off his pummelling on Woman’s Hour.

But, in an election that was always Theresa May's to lose, it's the Prime Minister's social care u-turn that continued to give Labour its bounce in the polls.

The PM was right to avoid last night's BBC bun fight; as Amber Rudd (a future PM, mark my words) proved, there was nothing to gain in a Cabinet Minister being shouted at by six others who didn’t have a track record in government to defend. Despite the criticism of Theresa May’s no-show, it’s Westminster bubble stuff that won’t have any real impact on voter behaviour.


But what should we make of the narrowing polls, and particularly of YouGov's shocker on Wednesday? It’s important to remember three things: first, polling isn't a prediction, it's a snapshot (and YouGov’s margin of error in this poll is prettttty wide). Second, pollsters are still not clear about what happened in 2015/16, so there’s a question of accuracy (Remain's private polling gave us a 10 point lead on the day of the referendum). Finally, voting is largely emotionally-driven; for some voters , that means 'change', but for most it will mean the 'strong and stable' status quo and a decent majority for Theresa May this time next week.


That said, whenever the Tories look like they’re losing ground, Sterling wobbles - as it did when YouGov’s poll was published; the assumption is that Tory policies are favourable to business, and Labour ones are not.

But is that still true, with both main parties sticking the knife into big business? The Tories’ energy price cap left businesses, and their Public Affairs teams, stunned. Add to that reports from Public Affairs pros that they’ve found Theresa May’s No10 difficult to engage with, and the CBI needing to ‘reset relations’ with Downing Street, and many in UK plc are getting a little concerned.


So, what’s going on? The problem with business is that it likes the status quo, and the PM, Nick Timothy, and Fiona Hill don’t. And, although it’s not true to say that the PM’s team is anti-business or that they don’t believe in free markets, it’s important to understand what drives them.


The PM, Nick, and Fi all have a deeply-held belief in social justice, and have made it clear that they will intervene when they believe that markets aren't working for society's most vulnerable. They’ve also been in government long enough to see some pretty old-school Public Affairs practices, and they hate the idea that it should be about cosy lunches or vested interests, or about being lectured by CEOs and their teams.


So, as well as breathing a sigh of relief next Friday that your company isn’t about to be nationalised, it’s also worth reflecting on how to adapt your approach to Public Affairs. Defend your position and put forward your evidence base, absolutely; but, crucially, demonstrate that you're part of the solution that the PM and her team is looking for. Be strategic and creative, and think about how to redesign the market before it's redesigned for you.


In a post-Brexit world, and particularly following a week when the UK became the slowest-growing economy in the G7, the success of British business has rarely been more important; in that context, Public Affairs pros have a huge responsibility to ensure the old adage that business and politics should never mix is no longer true.