Thought Leadership

EDITOR’S SOAPBOX: Election 2017 – Why Recruitment’s reaction is baffling (and naïve)

Written by the Editorial Team

Yesterday it was announced that there is to be a general election in June. Yet take a read of any of the recruitment press and the news would appear to have been a surprise to many within the industry followed by a collective sense of naivety too.

The overriding message from recruiters was this: The labour market needs to be made a political priority in the June election.

Perhaps I am missing something, but hasn’t it always been at the top of the political agenda or have events transpired that I am completely oblivious to that have see it fall away in recent years?

APSCo described the announcement as “nothing short of surprising”, and added that the election is a chance to push “UK skills and the importance of the UK professional labour market into the spotlight”.

The REC for their part, said they “hope that all the parties go into this short, intense campaign with the value of a strong labour market to the UK economy at the forefront of their minds.”

C’mon, seriously? This is one of the fastest growing and most important contributors to the UK economy, is anyone really suggesting that a sector (i.e. recruitment) that has grown from £26 billion to £35 billion in less than four years would have someone gone unnoticed or ignored by those in Westminster?

After all,

it was the strength of the labour market that won the Conservatives the general election two years ago.

So to suggest it has dropped off the radar since then is quite frankly naive.

I’m 44 years old and have had the right to vote for 28 years now. Every local and national election that I have voted in without exception has seen all the parties involved place employment at the very heart of their campaigns, alongside health and education.

This is nothing new; it is how elections have been fought for decades, so quite why the recruitment industry has reacted the way it is has this week has left me rather flummoxed.

Then there were some recruiters who voiced their concerns over what the election will mean for Brexit.

Contracting solutions provider ADVANCE, suggested that: “Another Tory majority would mean full steam ahead for Brexit and kill off any lingering chances of the referendum result being overturned.”

The IoR, however, warned the election could open up the possibility of their being another referendum if the Lib Dems emerge victorious following June’s vote: “Everything you have been gearing up for could reverse again and it could be ‘forget everything we have said in terms of Brexit – we’re doing the opposite’. “

Let’s nip this in the bud.

There has never been the slightest possibility of a second referendum – the vote was cast, the paperwork has been processed and Brexit is a fact of life. It’s called democracy.

Besides, reneging on Brexit would make the UK even more of a laughing stock among our EU colleagues than it would already appear to be right now. So purely from a PR perspective, a second referendum isn’t…going…to…happen.

Then there were those recruiters suggesting, as Manchester-based agency Platinum Recruit told Recruiter, that the election was some sort of bid from Theresa May “to provide some certainty around the leadership…she wants to know she’s in it for the long run…”

No, no, no.

Look, this is about politics – it is not one person’s quest to consolidate her position and provide a sense of unity in leadership. Nor is it an attempt to scupper or reignite hopes of a second referendum. That’s what the Daily Mail et al would have you believe.

Most voters – myself included – couldn’t care less if May was voted in or assumed her role, as was the case. This election is about one thing: seats.

Labour is in a shambles. The Lib Dems have disappeared into the wilderness and may return once more, but not now and certainly not in a way that could make any sort of impact over the next seven weeks – Plaid Cymru have more chance of winning the election right now than Fallon et al.

This is perhaps the most opportunistic time there has ever been for the Tories to take advantage of Labour’s vulnerability.

Indeed, according to YouGov, no party has ever been so far ahead of another this close to an election, and it is predicted that the Tories will have the largest majority in post-war history with 44%, versus Labour’s 23%.

The announcement of the forthcoming election in June should not be a surprise to anyone, while to come out and urge each of the political parties to make the labour market a central focus of their campaigns would appear to me to be ludicrous. It already is and always has been.