The industry has mixed views on whether next month’s snap General Election will help to break the ongoing Brexit deadlock, but believes it should at least provide the usual short-term boost for print.
And as the first December election in nearly 100 years, it also unusually comes during the industry’s already traditionally busy seasonal period, potentially offering a bumper festive lift for many printers.
On 29 October MPs passed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s call for an election, with the date set for 12 December, kick-starting a five-week campaign leading up to polling day.
Johnson said it was time for the UK to “come together to get Brexit done” and that “a new and revitalised” parliament was needed to lead Britain out of the EU – with the new deadline now 31 January 2020, after Johnson formally accepted the EU’s extension offer.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called the election “a once-in-a-generation chance to transform our country and take on the vested interests holding people back” while Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson described the situation as “our best chance to elect a government to stop Brexit”.
BPIF chief executive Charles Jarrold is in the camp that does not believe the election is a good idea, but says “the other options to resolve the current impasse are as bad or worse”.
“I have no idea what will happen in terms of outcome, it’s perhaps the most unpredictable election of recent times,” he adds.
“We need to get beyond the current political uncertainties, although whether the election will achieve this remains to be seen. In any event, we can expect to be debating the nature of our commercial relationship with the EU for a long time to come.
“We all have to continue to plan on the basis that Brexit will happen sooner or later, and that we will all then get to work on redrawing our relationship with the EU, probably within a free trade agreement, which will take a fair while to negotiate.”
If the last election is anything to go by, printers can expect a swift increase in demand for campaign materials, including direct mail, banners and other materials, given the short campaign period.
“A General Election will always bring print business to the industry,” says Central Mailing Services sales and marketing director Richard Morrow.
“We’re already dealing with a number of enquiries, we’ve already got work in the factory. There are already full election campaigns so we’re well underway with work for that. It’s a good boost for the business. It’s definitely welcome.”
Large-format printer Wallace Print, which has targeted election campaigns for business in the past, sees similar opportunity in the election call.
However, others in the industry are not so keen on the prospect of an election taking place amidst continued uncertainty over Brexit.
Delta Group chief executive Jason Hammond says: “The overall disruption and uncertainty within the government has naturally led to a drop in consumer confidence within the key sectors Delta operates in.
“A swift solution, with a deal agreed before the general election, would be best in order to inject some much-needed confidence back into the high street in the run-up to Christmas.”
Adam Carnell, managing director of Bluetree Group, which owns the Route 1 Print and Instantprint online print brands, summarises a widespread feeling in the industry that the inevitable spike in election print “shows how important print is as a method of communication and therefore this will give a good short term boost to the industry”.
“Hopefully [the election] will mean a clear outcome to the Brexit stalemate, one that I think every business desires. I just wish there was a referendum first – for the extra print!” he adds.
A Printweek poll asking readers which way they plan to vote in the coming election attracted nearly 500 votes in two days, with the largest proportion (50%) saying they will vote Conservative, followed by 18% each for the Liberal Democrats and The Brexit Party, 8% saying they will vote Labour. All of the other parties collectively garnered 6%.