We are on the eve of a Boris Johnson government. In the context of the many challenges it faces, WA is scenario planning around whether it succeeds or fails.
Here are our thoughts on what a Johnson government may look like, if it succeeds. In the next couple of days, we’ll provide an alternative analysis of what failure looks like. In both we provide our advice for companies looking to work with the new government.
The success story obviously assumes that Johnson somehow delivers Brexit. Taking this as a starting point, his government will be busy:
Generating a sense of national optimism. There will be carefully managed cross-country visits, flag waving and the odd zip wire moment. Johnson’s joie de vivre will contrast to the seriousness of our other politicians to capture some of the 30-35% of the electorate who don’t normally vote. The approach will be continuity with his Brexit narrative of hope. It will be framed as GB unity – echoes of winning back a lost ‘global Britain’ – but will mainline to English nationalism to shore up leavers across the country in preparation for an election.
Unveiling a framework economic strategy to make Brexit a genuine success. Expect a more bullish positive economic vision of the opportunities for the industries of tomorrow. There will be activism on innovation, high-tech hubs and collaboration between entrepreneurs, finance, universities and government. Government will play even more of a role as funder and pump-primer of innovation, and as opener of new market access opportunities. There will be an immediate deregulatory drive and the beginnings of an overhaul of the structure of regulation, in order to promote more competition and support high-productivity sectors.
Preparing for an Early General Election. This means campaigning and not policy-making in any great detail. Proven campaigners will be given the prime Cabinet positions and will focus on big announcements of retail policies that start a long election campaign. Detailed policy-making will be left to departments, largely centred on junior ministers, SpAds and the civil service. More controversial areas like social care funding will be left unaddressed. Manifesto development will get fully underway, and the manifesto will be about tone, not detail.
Under this successful scenario we don’t believe that there will be a cabal of ideologically-driven advisers, waiting in the wings e.g. drawn from the ERG, Lynton Crosby or Steve Bannon. No one group of advisers will ‘run’ Johnson. He is a liberal and he will delegate and distribute power across a wide group of people, keep an extremely powerful but non-ideological Chief of Staff close, and as we expect with all good politicians, play the many different factions – left and right, Brexit and Remain – against each other in order to remain safely in place for longer than most are expecting.
Our public affairs advice to companies looking to work with the new government under this scenario is as follows:
- If you’re doing something interesting and eye catching, talk to media special advisers and visits teams about securing ministerial visits and media quotes. They’ll be keen to get new ministers out there as much as possible
- For the same reason, think about the airtime you can give new ministers with your employees, customers and supply chains
- Give the new Government your vote of confidence through having a strong presence at Conservative Party Conference this year
- When it comes to informing policy development, talk to the new manifesto team (yet to be confirmed) as much as policy advisers and civil servants
- If you can, sense check the broad strokes of your policy arguments with the new No.10 advisers… but before you do that:
- Frame your arguments in terms of the benefits to post-Brexit, global Britain and the new economic approach outlined above;
- Think about the benefits to Johnson’s electoral base i.e. the two main groups of leavers (younger people who’ve been ‘left behind’, and older retired people looking for reassertion of sovereignty) plus centrist floating voters;
- And sense check the benefits of your approach to Conservative target seats in a future election i.e. areas that heavily voted leave that are at risk of falling to the Brexit Party, as well as Lab-Con swing seats