THANKS to the secrecy of the ballot box we will never know the identity or profession of the two individuals who made history when their votes returned Stephen Gethins to victory in North East Fife in the 2017 General election.

From the tranquillity of Perth and North Perthshire with a majority of 21 to the bustle of Kensington with a Labour majority of 20, the December election is sure to produce some nail-biting finishes.

That’s why the UK’s fastest-growing sector with around five million self-employed individuals, contractors, freelancers and entrepreneurs will influence the final results in many constituencies throughout the UK. In fact, research by IPSE shows that 186 seats have more self-employed living in the constituency than the size of the incumbent's majority in 2017.

New technologies, demographic shifts and changing attitudes about work-life balance have begun to reshape the labour market. At the heart of this story has been the rapid rise in self-employment.

Since 2008 there has been a 35 per cent increase in the number of self-employed. From actors and accountants to consultants and construction workers, self-employed people are the lifeblood of the economy. They contribute £305bn to the UK economy and bring much-needed flexibility, skills and innovation to the public and private sectors.

Self-employment’s value also lies in the freedom and flexibility it offers those who choose it. Freelancing has become a particularly attractive option for those who are often furthest from the traditional labour market: millennials, disabled people, retirees and working mothers.

At IPSE, the UK’s biggest organisation representing many from this sector, we see this growth in self-employment as fundamentally positive. However, freelancers do face several challenges. As well as the risks of going it alone, the UK’s tax and employment system does not work well enough for them.

We believe this election offers all political parties a golden opportunity to set out how the next government can support self-employment and develop new approaches to the modern world of work. The prize if they do is substantial: winning the trust of nearly five million voters across a diverse range of ages, backgrounds and sectors in every part of the country.

The new world of work is agile, flexible, digital and connected. It is time for politicians to respond and build a policy environment to match this.

We believe the next government at Westminster should:

Strike a Brexit deal that works for the self-employed by prioritising frictionless trade and movement of skilled professionals in future negotiations, and providing detailed guidance for freelancers to prepare for a No Deal.

Provide a secure financial future for freelancers through a review of the tax system to clarify issues such as IR35, clamping down on late payment and enabling better access to financial products like mortgages and pensions.

Agree a fair deal on rights and support by extending adequate paternity and maternity rights to freelancers, supporting them to take up training, and designing a welfare system more sympathetic to their needs.

Make the UK the best place to be a business by building world-class infrastructure, including superfast broadband, making government contracts freelancer-friendly and incentivising the use of workhubs.

While IPSE is apolitical, we have called on all political parties to carry out a wide-ranging review of self-employed and small business taxation to unleash the UK’s entrepreneurial spirit.

Those two people in Fife may never know how important their votes were. The same goes for the 21 in Perth or the 20 in Kensington. I’m sure there were one or two self-employed in these marginal seats and on the 12th December there will be five million casting their vote for the party they think can best help their sector.

Chris Bryce is CEO of IPSE