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13 September 2019

246: What is certain in these uncertain times? How public affairs can help

Trying to map out what will happen with Brexit is challenging to say the least. But that does not mean that public affairs cannot help organisations make sense of what is happening and what is likely to happen. Without this advice, the risks simply increase.

There is uncertainty across all aspects of government and opposition at the moment. Everything from whether parliament will be forced to start sitting again through to the timings of an election are all the subject of speculation. These may be great days for pundits but they are less useful for organisations trying to plan for the future. That is to say nothing of Brexit….

But even at this stage we can be pretty certain about some aspects of our politics in the coming weeks and months:

  • Queen’s Speech – there will be one. Either Boris will go-ahead with announcing his programme on 14 October or there will be an election, and a new government will have to deliver one. So both the Conservatives and Labour are thinking about their programmes for government. Labour’s programme will look a lot like their 2017 election manifesto whereas the Conservatives are busy pulling one together at relatively short notice. There has been remarkably little speculation on content to date but a few commitments have been made, for instance around veteran’s issues, and doubtless some legislation that fell away, such as on immigration, will come back again in some form.Organisations should though be thinking about ideas that they have ready for potential inclusion. Do not ignore the role that the party conferences will play either. The set-piece speeches will act as forerunners for the Queen’s Speech and the manifestos so there could be opportunities for input here as well.
  • The election campaign – it will be bitter and divisive so may make it even more advisable to avoid engagement than usual. The Conservatives will target Corbyn as an ‘enemy of the people’ and ‘Brexit-blocker’. Labour will target an ‘untrustworthy’ and ‘lying’ Prime Minister. It will all get rather personal. But do keep abreast of the issues being discussed as you may need to move to protect your reputation in some cases.
  • Manifestos – expect a thin but quite pointed Conservative Party manifesto with lots of talk of delivering Brexit, increasing police numbers etc. As has been the case from the day that Boris took over, the party is already in election mode. Every announcement is made to distance themselves from Theresa May’s time in office, push away from austerity and show that this is a different type of Conservative government. Labour will be more policy-heavy with more detail on the ideas from 2017 plus a few others that have been picked up along the way. Some of those have gone down very badly with the business community, such as staff ownership, so the party needs to decide how much it wishes to show its programme for radical change and how much it wishes to reassure the business community.There is always the opportunity for organisations to produce their manifestos as a way of influencing the debate as well.
  • Runners, riders, champions – there is already a job to do in terms of keeping track of who is standing, who is going and who may be shown the door. This applies to both Labour and the Conservatives. As much as you can keep a track and get the ‘congratulations’ letters ready for after the election. Start tracking Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) so you can get to know what makes them tick and check for any immediate ‘rising stars’. Also, do not lose track of those standing down. Many go on to take up new roles which could mean they retain their status as key stakeholders for you.

So once you cut through all the speculation and uncertainty, some planning and risk management can take place.

It may be interesting to watch news breaking on Twitter but real planning it more beneficial.

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