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Exit poll: What a Labour win could mean for R&D and HE

 Image: Keir Starmer [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0], via Flickr

Election 2024: Exit poll suggests Labour landslide

The exit poll for the 2024 general election suggests the Labour Party is heading for a landslide victory and will form the United Kingdom’s next government. 

The Ipsos Mori poll, released at 10pm on 4 July, predicts the Labour Party will win 410 seats in the House of Commons, with the Conservatives expected to secure 131, the Liberal Democrats 61, Reform 13, the Scottish National Party 10 and the Greens 2.

While the official result is still some hours away, the exit poll predicts that Labour will hold a majority of 170, meaning it is now likely to be in a position to implement its higher education and research policies.

Universities and R&D have not featured prominently in Labour leader Keir Starmer’s campaign, although there have been some commitments.

In its manifesto, Labour said that research and innovation needs to be “converted into commercial success”. It said universities will also play an important role in creating Local Growth Plans, and that a new industrial strategy will support the development of the artificial intelligence sector. It also emphasised the role of universities and research in promoting economic growth.

However, senior sector figures have queried the Labour stance. Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, suggested in June that the omission of a specific research investment target in the party’s manifesto looked “suspiciously like a U-turn”.

While Labour’s pledges contained a promise to “keep the UK at the forefront of global innovation”, there was no specific target for investment in R&D—even though Labour had previously committed to spending 3 per cent of GDP on research, in addition to setting 10-year budgets for key R&D institutions.

“It’s one thing to refuse to commit to brand new policies in a manifesto, but it’s quite another to perform what looks suspiciously like a U-turn by omitting important areas altogether,” Hillman said.

“We had been led to expect an expansive 10-year investment plan for science and research. Labour appears to want to offer the country change and stability together, and a new long-term R&D settlement would be one very clear way to do that, so let’s hope it arrives in due course.”

Meanwhile, Stephen Curry, director of strategy at the Research on Research Institute, said last month that he was not too concerned about the lack of a specific research investment target—at least not “for the time being”.

“Throughout the campaign, Labour’s body language has been extremely constrained, clearly intending to give the Conservatives no excuse to accuse them of reckless tax and spend policies,” he told Research Professional News. 

More to follow…

More on Labour’s higher education pledges:

Unease over politicians’ ‘silence’ on university funding emergency

Tory and Labour manifestos ‘fall short on university funding’

Bridget Phillipson: ‘University stability will be a day one priority’

Starmer: I chose NHS funding over tuition-fee abolition

Labour 10-year R&D budgets to be part of industrial strategy

Labour coy on details of proposed 10-year science funding plan

Labour manifesto suggests lack of hard thinking about R&D