Editor | 16 June 2017
Election aftermath: Who won the self-employed vote?

Election aftermath: Who won the self-employed vote?

After a tumultuous election campaign the final result was anything but decisive. With no party winning an overall majority, we look at what freelancers wanted out of the election, who they voted for and what could happen next. 

What self-employed people wanted

Because self-employed workers are a diverse bunch it’s hard to generalise what they all wanted out of the election. 

But there are some policy measures that most freelancers, contractors and other self-employed workers would agree are a good idea. Some of these points were expressed by IPSE Chief Executive and freelancer champion Chris Bryce in the build up to the election.  

Mr Bryce called on the next government to ‘unshackle’ the self-employed and formally recognise the vital role they play in the economy and the country. 

He said: “There needs to be recognition in Parliament that the self-employed are here to stay and are a massive part of the UK economy. Parties need to consider how their policies apply to this workforce – which makes up 15% of employment as a whole – before shooting off at the mouth, and right now we’re not entirely convinced that they are.”

In a ‘self-employed manifesto’ document produced by IPSE, the trade body which represents self-employed workers outlined a number of policies they wanted to see introduced. 

The electoral wish list included a call for the next government to incentivise retirement saving   amongst the self-employed. They also wanted to make sure that Brexit was carried out in a way that supports the interests of contractors and called for a rethink in IR35 rules. 

Disappointingly, Bryce thought that no political candidate stood out for self-employed people. He said that this was because all the main political parties misunderstand the self-employed. 

“It seems to me that many parties are all too happy to assume the narrative that all the self-employed are some sort of weak underclass who need protection, and as we all know that’s far from the truth,” he said. 

So if no one stood out for IPSE, who did self-employed people vote for? 

Who won the self-employed vote?

Significant post-election surveys conducted by YouGov found that there was an important link between a person’s employment status and how they cast their ballot.

The Conservatives, for example, were 39 points ahead of Labour amongst retirees and Labour were 45 points ahead of The Conservatives amongst full-time students (this also demonstrates that age was a key factor in determining this election).

The way that self-employed people voted, unfortunately, is less clear. The YouGov poll did not include a dedicated category for self-employment. 

It is likely that some self-employed workers described themselves as being in ‘full-time employment’ (defined as working more than 30 hours per week). This group was marginally more likely to vote Labour. 

There was also an ‘Other’ category which some self-employed people may have used to describe themselves. This group was more likely to vote Labour, with Jeremy Corbyn’s party about 15 points ahead of The Conservatives.

What could happen next? 

Events of the last few weeks prove that predictions make fools of us all, but we will have a go anyway in the interests of the self-employed people. 

We have already seen the markets react negatively to a hung parliament. Sustained political and economic uncertainty can have a lot of negative effects for contractors, including lower pension returns and higher import costs. 

The election is also likely to have an impact on Brexit. Many commentators now believe that a hung parliament will force Theresa May to soften her negotiating position, which could lead to a less disruptive exit from the European Union. 

Tax is another hot topic for self-employed people. Since 2015, the Conservatives’ small majority in the commons has made it difficult to pass controversial legislation, including a tax rise on self-employed workers, which was ultimately withdrawn by the government because they didn’t think they had enough parliamentary support. 

Now, with no majority whatsoever, tax increases on the self-employed look even less likely. Great news! 

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