General Election 2017: An interview with the CEO

With the general election now just one week away, manifestos have been released, policies critiqued and ballot boxes readied for when polling stations open on 8 June. But, on 9 June, when the dust settles and a clearer picture begins to emerge, how high - and indeed how favourably - will the self-employed be on the new government’s agenda? We talked to IPSE CEO Chris Bryce to find out what the political landscape could look like for the UK’s 4.8 million self-employed when the new government occupies Downing Street.

 

From their manifestos, and all the discourse over the previous few weeks, which party appears to be the most sympathetic to the self-employed?

“First, it’s important to stress the value of the self-employed. The £255bn they add to the economy is enough to fund the NHS, twice – that’s staggering! The NHS is such a fundamental battle ground in this election so it’s important all the parties are aware that the self-employed contribute huge sums of money and supporting them could help with many policies and issues elsewhere. Looking at the manifestos, we are concerned that all the main parties have made relatively limited attempts to do so. The Lib Dems appear the most supportive, though their policies might not help self-employment’s long term success as much as they could. The other parties have either made taxing the self-employed or protecting a minority of vulnerable workers their priority. However, in protecting vulnerable workers, there could be a knock-on effect on other segments of the self-employed workforce. Our own manifesto spells out, to all parties, how this vital population should be supported and we will ensure that the needs of the self-employed are heard and acted upon.”

IPSE's full analysis of the manifestos can be read here.

You mentioned the release of our own IPSE Manifesto: ‘A Contract with the Self-Employed’. What is the significance of it and what do we hope to achieve?

“To steal a line from our advertising campaign - the self-employed are the goose that lays the golden egg, and we are very proud to represent them. They are the men and women who every day add great value and flexibility to the UK economy. The increase in the number of self-employed people working in the UK in recent years is dramatic and quite spectacular and let me tell you: this phenomenon is here to stay! For the vast majority working for one company, 9 to 5, throughout your life is a thing of the past. The government in power on 9 June has to recognise this and self-employed working has to be embraced and encouraged. It is time for government - of whatever political hue - to support this 21st century way of working. Ours is a manifesto to give the self-employed the support they need, the polices they deserve and the platform to be successful. We want the new government to think of our self-employed future. IPSE will be watching the outcome closely and our manifesto will be the basis of our engagement with the new government over the next five years.”

There are 4.8 million self-employed in the UK, how important could they be in determining the election outcome?

“Incidentally, our policy team has recently conducted a piece of fascinating research into this topic. They analysed data from each constituency and the ONS’s Annual Population Survey to find a list of the marginal seats where the self-employed could play a crucial role. Initially, we found the 20 constituencies with the highest proportion of self-employed as a percentage; from St Ives at 35.5% to East Devon at 25.7%. Many of these constituencies had rather safe majorities, so instead we took the seats with above average proportions of self-employed, and then ordered them by the size of their majority. In the last general election, we saw Ed Miliband win a number of seats where self-employment is high by directly appealing to them with a series of positive pledges. The self-employed are a very politically engaged group and could carry great sway in their constituency. We would urge everyone to contact their candidates with a copy of our manifesto to find out just how seriously they are taking the self-employed.”

Read the full report here.

How are our members feeling ahead of the election?

“Our recent Freelancer Confidence Index survey found worryingly low levels of confidence and one of the factors was government policy. We listen very closely to our membership and did so again while we compiled our manifesto. The Conservatives’ attempt to increase class 4 NICs at the budget was audacious and many of our members feel let down by that – and indeed seem worried about a second attempt. Our recent election survey found a rather drastic reduction in the number of those intending to vote Conservative compared to 2015. The Lib Dems seem to be the main benefactors of this, though - as we well know now – speculating on the polls is a fool’s game!”

IPSE’s membership election survey can be read here.

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