Who is the party for the self-employed?

Words, Benedict Smith

On the 8th June, we’ll be heading to the polling station to cast yet another vote - this time to decide on the next Government.

Theresa May’s decision to call a snap election sent shockwaves through a nation, who in some respects still find themselves reeling from the surprise outcome of last year’s EU referendum.

With The Labour Party at odds with one another, The Conservatives are 1/14 on to win a successive overall majority. Some polls even have Theresa May’s share of the votes at around double that of Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn. But who really trusts the polls these days?

They didn’t predict David Cameron’s overall majority in 2015, missed a huge trick with Brexit and more recently didn't see a Trump victory coming. You could argue that nobody saw that coming though. Not even Trump himself.

Given the poll’s recent run of bad form, who’s to say they’ll have any success at taking an accurate picture of the UK's voting plans for 8th June. We’ll just have to see how it plays out on election night. If recent referendums and elections are anything to go by though, we could be in for one hell of an evening.

That said, there is one thing we can be sure of as we draw ever closer to voting day. And that is the power the UK’s 4.8million self-employed people hold. Making up for 15% of the entire UK workforce, and contributing £119billion to the economy last year, freelancers, contractors and the self-employed have grown far too influential to ignore.

It is The Conservative Party who have historically won the lion’s share of the self-employed vote. Thought of as pro-business, not too long ago, Theresa May and her Cabinet would have been confident of securing the majority of independent worker’s votes. That was until last month’s Budget, in which they announced a raft of changes which on reflection can only be considered as an attack on the UK’s self-employed.

Controversial changes to IR35 in the public sector – which sees public sector employers deciding contractor’s employment status rather than contractors themselves – has angered thousands of valuable self-employed voters, even casting uncertainty over future public sector projects.

To put into context, 85% of public sector contractors plan to leave their roles should they be found inside IR35, and forced to pay a similar rate of tax as employees, only without any worker’s rights and benefits.

It is this, along with the slashing of tax-free dividends allowance, and who could forget – the short-lived increase of National Insurance Contribution – that has left us all wondering whether The Conservative Party are as pro-business as they claim. 

But that’s not to say The Labour Party are much popular. This is, after all, the Party who brought in IR35 tax itself. In the 2015 General Election they did themselves no favours in winning back any hostile self-employed voters either. It is Labour’s in-fighting, disarray and general distrust in its leader which will surely swing it for The Conservatives. But given the current climate, are we a nation ready for drastic change once again?

You only need to look across The Channel, and at the far-right’s Marine Le Pen, and her very real involvement in the French presidential election race to realise that politics can be the most unpredictable of games. And that’s before we’ve even got onto the subject of a certain Donald Trump.

Expect a political frenzy in the lead up to 8th June, as Party leaders fire cheap shot after cheap shot in verbal slanging matches in The Commons. What remains to be seen though, is who will step forward and cement their place as the Party for the self-employed? 

As the manifestos go to print, there is a big opportunity for The Conservative Party, The Labour Party or perhaps even a wild-card to win the hearts and minds of the UK’s diverse and growing self-employed population. We wait with baited breath once again...

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