Work
About
Work
About
Reopening the property market during lockdown
Reopening the property market during lockdown
From the Queen’s Speech to the next election: what now for the government’s agenda?
From the Queen’s Speech to the next election: what now for the Government’s agenda?

Posts Tagged ‘Boris Johnson’

WA webinar recording: Boris Johnson’s last stand?

WA webinar recording: Boris Johnson’s last stand? The implications of the vote of confidence in Johnson’s premiership and the wider political landscape.

 

Following the dramatic events in Westminster in early June, which saw 148 Conservative MPs votes that they have no confidence in Boris Johnson, WA hosted a webinar with leading broadcaster and journalist Steve Richards on 8th June to discuss the likely implications and ramifications of the vote for the future of the Boris Johnson premiership.

During the session, Steve provided insight into what is happening behind the scenes, answering questions about the rebels’ next steps, the likelihood of a general election, reshuffle and emergency budget, and the future of this Government’s legislative agenda.

 

Share this content:

Hanging in the balance? What we can learn from the local elections

Boris Johnson lives on to fight another day. The local election results were bad for the Conservatives but not good enough for Labour. Johnson’s MPs are not terrified enough to remove him in the immediate aftermath. I suspect the elections were never going to be the trigger. Leaders can always point to a success somewhere in the country. In his case, Johnson notes that parts of the so-called ‘red wall’ are holding firm.

This does not mean Johnson is safe for the long term. Over the weekend I spoke to several Tory MPs alarmed at the collapse of support in London and the south of England. They fear a fatal dynamic, the Liberal Democrats gaining seats from them in some parts of the country and Labour doing the same elsewhere. Their anxieties deepen when they reflect that the cost of living crisis is likely to intensify.

Johnson’s first substantial response to the election losses takes the form of tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech, a legislative programme composed with the next election in mind. The forthcoming Brexit bill is emblematic. Nearly all the initiatives aimed at moving away from EU regulatory frameworks have already been announced. By putting them together in a bill, Johnson seeks to make Brexit a defining issue once again.  Similarly, I am told that some of the proposals that will be included in a ‘levelling up’ bill do not necessarily require legislation. The theme is what matters as much as the content. For businesses wondering what the dividing lines will be at the next general election, Johnson’s words in the Commons tomorrow afternoon following the Queen’s Speech will provide part of the answer.

What is not in the Queen’s Speech is also as significant as the content. For all the huffing and puffing there will be no bill clearing the way for the government to unilaterally disown the Northern Ireland protocol. Even Johnson at his most populist does not want to alienate the Biden administration and the EU in quite such a provocative manner, not least with the Ukraine crisis far from resolved. Even so, expect renewed ministerial attempts to renegotiate the protocol in the next few weeks, accompanied by threats to trigger Article 16.  The other ‘missing bill’ on housebuilding is also a sign that Tory backbenchers are becoming more muscular. Johnson’s plans for what was one hailed as a “house building revolution” are dumped as a result of the insurrectionary threats from Conservative MPs in the south of England.

The calm ceremony of the Queen’s Speech will be in marked contrast to the wider political storms. Politics has rarely been more topsy turvy. For months there was speculation about whether Boris Johnson could survive ‘partygate’. Now there is a near panic at the top of the Labour Party about Keir Starmer’s fate being in the hands of the Durham police.

We do not know what the police will decide in its reopened investigation. But if Starmer survives, shadow cabinet members reflect privately that there are already lessons for him arising from ‘Beergate’. The first is that he will face hostile newspapers that are out to get him and to hail Johnson. Although he has sought to be as inoffensively ‘centrist’ as Tony Blair was in the run up to 1997, he is not going to enjoy a similarly supportive set of newspapers. The Daily Mail, The Sun and The Telegraph have played down Johnson’s partying and propelled Starmer’s work meeting in Durham to the top of the political agenda. At the very least they have succeeded in neutering Starmer. He was due to give interviews at the weekend and attend an event today at the Institute of Government. To the bewilderment of some in the shadow cabinet these were cancelled. If Johnson gets more penalty notices while the Durham police continue their investigation, Starmer’s response will be impossibly constrained. I have spoken to several shadow cabinet members who are genuinely worried about this development and what it might portend. Even if Starmer is cleared, he knows he must be prepared for a newspaper onslaught similar to that experienced by Neil Kinnock. His media operation will need to be much more robust in the face of inevitable further attacks.

The local elections suggest that a hung parliament is a possibility after the next general election. This would mean a minority Labour government or a Lib/Lab coalition. None of the other parties would do a deal with the Conservatives. For businesses trying to make sense of the current wild political context perhaps the most useful comparison is with the two elections in 1974 that took place during an economic crisis even deeper than the current one. There was considerable disillusionment with both major parties then and their leaders. The Liberal party was enjoying a revival and in a minor way so was the SNP in Scotland. The February 1974 election produced a hung parliament and the October election a few months later gave Labour a tiny overall majority. Over the last weekend Number 10 carried out an effective spin operation suggesting Johnson was fairly pleased with the election results. If he was, he must be delusional.

Perhaps the most significant results were in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The SNP wins every election in Scotland almost as a matter of course. Some Tory and Labour MPs wonder whether this will change until there is a second referendum. Nicola Sturgeon can always deploy the Westminster resistance to another poll as a weapon: Scotland votes for independence but Westminster won’t allow us to have a referendum. Labour is taking comfort from coming second in Scotland and some at the top of the party dare to hope it might win a few more seats there at the next general election.

The rise of Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland was perhaps inevitable following Johnson’s chosen Brexit route. Although he protests about the subsequent protocol, he was the one that proposed a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of Great Britain. There would have been no such barrier under Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Inevitably Northern Ireland’s economy moves closer to Ireland’s and is more distant from the rest of the UK, not a bad context for Sinn Fein to make its moves. This does not mean a united Ireland is a feasible prospect in the near term, but it becomes part of a destabilising mood in which a significant number of voters in Scotland and Northern Ireland want to break away from the UK. Johnson is not well placed to address the situation as his presence and conduct fuels the mood.

The key developments to look out for in the coming months are the Gray report and the end of the Metropolitan police investigation, the outcome of the Durham police investigation, embryonic leadership campaigns on both sides, a reshuffle if Johnson survives the Gray report, but above all the build up to Rishi Sunak’s budget in the autumn, a pivotal event and one made more demanding by the failure of his Spring Statement. On many fronts get ready for a turbulent summer and early autumn.

 

Steve will be unpacking what the government’s legislative programme will mean for businesses and, in the wake of the local elections and  what we can expect from the next parliamentary session in the latest WA webinar at 9am on Wednesday 11th May. You can register to join the event here.

Share this content:

Governing in a Crisis: How the UK Government is adapting to Covid-19

We are living through unprecedented times, but just like all of us, government and parliament are adapting to a new way of working.

New structures within government as MPs head home early

The immediate attention of the Government is understandably and rightly on responding to the national public health and economic emergency that we face.  As the Prime Minister put the country on a war-like footing, camp beds have been dusted off, and families have been told not to expect to see loved ones working on the front-line for days, weeks and possibly months.

But this bunker is far from isolated from the outside world.

It is relying on a network of communications channels, some hastily set-up, to feed those inside with information and intelligence in order to guide their next move.

As a priority, the prime minister created a new ministerial structure framed around four new implementation committees focusing on health, public sector preparedness, the economy and the international response.  Each committee is chaired by the relevant secretary of state and brings together officials and ministers, reporting into Downing Street.

Number 10’s business team and its sector specialists have been tasked with triaging the huge amount of correspondence pouring in from companies up and down the country who are requesting additional clarification, detail and support.

And within the ministerial departments, officials and advisers are having to manage an unprecedented amount inbound communication.  Their job is to identify common themes and to spot worrying outliers, relaying this information up through the chain of command for action.

Outside of Whitehall, it was confirmed today that MPs would leave for their constituencies a week earlier than planned for Easter recess.

This measure follows on the back of the Speaker telling all visitors to stay away from the parliamentary estate, select committee hearings being wound-up with no witnesses to interview, and Westminster Hall debates being pulled for fear of transmission.

New ways of working

Against this backdrop you would be forgiven for thinking that nothing else but coronavirus matters.

It is true that priorities have shifted, and that the coronavirus response is without doubt the single biggest item on the Government’s agenda.  The response, and its aftermath, will preoccupy the duration of this Government, and probably the next.

But it is noticeable that, even now, most meetings already in the diary to take place in person with ministers, parliamentarians and officials on matters outside of coronavirus, are being quickly re-arranged to take place over audio and video conference lines.

Postponed not cancelled.  Moved in the diary not removed from the agenda entirely.

Similarly, all current select committee inquiries have had their deadlines for evidence submissions extended.

While Easter recess could not have come sooner for many MPs, parliament is expected to return – in some way – on April 21st.  Robert Halfon MP, chairman of the education select committee, is pushing with many others for remote working to be enabled.

Central to this will be video conferencing and, potentially, digital votes.  This may not be possible to arrange at full-scale in just a few weeks, but the Commons has already approved temporary use of video conferencing by select committees until June 30th, with the option for the Speaker to extend.

We can expect more information to follow in the coming weeks as 21st century parliamentarians lobby the new speaker to bring parliament up to speed to allow much required parliamentary scrutiny to continue.

Looking ahead

The attention and focus of the Government and parliament will, of course, remain doggedly on coronavirus for the foreseeable future, but we should not forget that this is a Government at the start of its journey not the end.

It is a Government with a manifesto that – while surpassed by recent events – was built on a lot of promises that people will remember, not least the levelling up agenda.

This Government will have a mammoth task in responding to the fast-moving crisis and realising its commitments through tangible outcomes.

In the fog of war it can be hard to see, but this Government is lucky to have a business community standing ready with ideas and solutions to help it in its immediate response and in the delivery of previously made pledges.

 

Share this content:

Register for insights

Speak to us
020 7222 9500 contact@wacomms.co.uk

6th Floor, Artillery House
11-19 Artillery Row
London
SW1P 1RT
close_pop
Sign Up
Complete the form below to sign up to our newsletter:

    YOUR NAME:

    EMAIL:

    ORGANISATION:

    By submitting this form you agree to WA Communications’ Privacy Policy.