Several readers of Shout99 have already pointed out that elections are won or lost in a comparitively small number of constituencies. In these marginals a swing vote from one particular interest group could make the difference.
Things can only get better
When Tony Blair swept to power in 1997, his chosen anthem, 'Things can only get better' seemed to ring true for many across the nation.
For many people, there seemed a bright New Labour dawn with the promise to move away from the Thatcher years and the sleaze, which at that time had become so closely associated with the Tories; towards a party returning to socialist principles without the union influence which was many blamed for so many past troubles.
Eight years and a further General Election later - did things get better for the small business community?
'Personal service companies'
There are nearly 3 million small businesses run by the self-employed or owner managers with an estimated combined turnover of £178 billion.
It is this group which has been particularly affected by some of the policies of the Labour Government. And within this group, those who seem to be specifically targeted are the so-called 'personal services companies'.
In 1999, IR35 attempted to reclassify them as 'disguised employees' and tax them in line with permanent employees rather than risk taking businesses.
Section 660 is potentially a greater threat to many husband and wife companies. The Arctic Systems case, which was recently heard at the High Court, will prove crucial to the future of tens of thousands of such businesses. If predictions are correct, then the decision in that case could fall around the same time as the date of the General Election.
General elections are a focused opportunity for single issue groups to motivate support and make their voices heard.
Consider how many column inches and television coverage have been devoted to fox hunting or illegal travellers camps which arguably affect a considerably smaller number of people than IR35 or Section 660.
Yet the small business constituency does not command the interest or exert the influence that other pressure groups or single causes can achieve.
If there are 6,000 small businesses in each constituency and, let's say, three or four people are directly or indirectly influenced by the fortunes of that business, either as the owner, partner or friend, then the number of voters whose intentions are swayed would be more than enough to swing a seat.
In 1999 a survey of the PCG membership showed that the majority had voted Labour in the 1997 General Election. A year later, a Shout99 suvery of more than 1,000 businessmen and woman, showed that 50 per cent who voted Labour in the 1997 election, said they will change their vote to Conservative or LibDem at the next election; and a further 18 per cent revealed that they would vote tactically for the party most likely to unseat the Labour candiadate.
The latest Shout99 poll of nearly 3,000 small businesses showed support for Labour had fallen further:
If there was an election soon, who would you vote for:
|Labour:||7 per cent||(205)|
|Conservative:||63 per cent||(1858)|
|LibDem:||17 per cent||(512)|
|Other:||4 per cent||(111)|
|None of the above (NOTA):||9 per cent||(261)|
It will be interesting to watch the forthcoming General Election campaign to see if the small business community is sufficiently motivated to 'make a difference' and whether or not it becomes an agenda item for the main parties.
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- Susie Hughes © Shout99.com 2005