Majority of small business owners want a new government

UK startups and small business community feel new leadership would have a positive impact, exclusive research reveals

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Written and reviewed by:
Richard Parris - managing editor of
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With prime minister Rishi Sunak expected to call an election this year, a new survey by reveals that most business owners would welcome a change in government. After some gruelling years of back-to-back crises that have seen a huge number of businesses close, there’s evidence of a hunger for change among those running small- to medium-sized businesses.

In a survey of 546 UK small businesses, Startups found that 58% of business owners surveyed believed that a change in government in 2024 would have a positive impact on their prospects. Just 9% felt it would have a negative impact.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Scotland were the most likely to think a change in government would have a positive impact, at 74%. This is followed by those in Greater London, at 67%.

Business owners looking to the future

SMEs battled numerous challenges in 2023, from soaring inflation to labour shortages. Many of those still standing made it through only narrowly. The survey found that more businesses felt they had survived (51%) rather than thrived (42%) over the past year, making it no surprise many would welcome change.

From an industry perspective, technology and software companies are most eager for a change in government this year. Some 74% of firms in this sector told us that a change in government would be positive, which follows a year where a digital skills gap left many employers struggling to find job-ready talent.

The findings come off the back of a slim Autumn Statement last November, which left many business leaders calling for increased support for SMEs.

Policy can capture small business votes

Entrepreneurs hungry for change may just get their wish. According to a poll by YouGov released this week, the Labour party could be heading for a 120-seat majority.

There is still time for the Tories to turn things around in the eyes of the SME community, however. 54% of company owners told Startups that business incentives could affect how they would vote this year.

Should the Chancellor be able to pass a generous Spring Budget this March, with renewed access to capital and funding, the Conservative party could potentially swing business leader votes back to blue in time for the election.

Optimism on the up in an election year

Despite the appetite for a change in the nation’s leadership, our research uncovered a general sense of optimism among the UK’s small business owners. Those running newer businesses told us they felt the most positive about the future: some 74% of those founded in the past year are optimistic about 2024, versus just 47% of companies that launched in 2019.

However, the mood up and down the country was revealed to be starkly different. According to our research, in London, 73% of business leaders feel ‘highly optimistic’ about their prospects for growth. Meanwhile, Northern Irish business leaders revealed the worst sense of business pessimism of any region in the UK, with 20% saying they felt ‘not optimistic’ about prospects for the year ahead, versus just 7% saying the same in London.

In Scotland, 53% of business leaders told us they felt optimistic for the year ahead, while 13% felt ‘not optimistic’. For Welsh businesses, these figures were 58% and 4%, respectively.

Written by:
Richard Parris - managing editor of
Richard joined the Startups team in 2021, and has a career in publishing that has spanned over 15 years. As a researcher, writer and editor, Richard has worked on brands across the UK, US and Asia in both print and online, including at the BBC, on the US-focused tech industry site, plus at Which? magazine and its website, where Richard oversaw technology reviews and advice publishing. Richard has been an interviewee and contributor on television, radio, newspaper, magazine and online publications, and has featured in interviews including on the BBC and The Scotsman. Richard is passionate about converting potentially complex topics into clear, actionable advice and recommendations, and works alongside the in-house Startups team and its growing network to promote the needs of the UK small business community.

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