Government relations during political chaos

Westminster, London's Big Ben Clock

Adam Newman, Account Manager

The Conservative Party will soon have its fifth leader since 2016. A far cry from the ‘strong and stable’ government promised back in 2017.

With this, there will be a new approach to governance. From ‘Compassionate Conservativism’ under Cameron, ‘Tackling Burning Injustices’ under May, ‘Getting Brexit Done’ and ‘Levelling Up’ under Johnson, and ‘Growth, Growth, Growth’ under Truss; the country can prepare for a new agenda and new policy priorities to accompany its new Prime Minister.

Businesses which have spent the last 45 days working out how they can contribute to the Truss Government’s agenda will be burying their heads in their hands. After creating position papers on how they can contribute to the government’s growth strategy, and welcoming new Ministers to their roles, they will once again have to go back to the drawing board.

This uncertainty comes at a time when businesses are also dealing with wider economic uncertainty, and whilst they work out how to play a role in achieving net zero.

There may well be a temptation to delay government relations activities for the time being, waiting for a time when there is more stability. However, our view is that this is not the time for inaction. Instead, here are three key steps that businesses should consider to firm up their government relations goals:

  1. Prepare for a Labour Government

The possibility of a Labour government is looking increasingly likely.

With Labour having a poll lead of over 30% in some polls, the party is actively preparing an agenda for government. A key theme of Labour’s party conference last month was being a business-friendly party, with the shadow cabinet being keen to hear from businesses, making now the time to be speaking to stakeholders in the Labour party, and to develop policies and messaging that are ready for a future a Labour government. FlieshmanHillards’s Labour Party Unit stands ready to support organisations in these efforts.

  1. Focus on the “Permanent” part of government

Now is a good time to firm up relations with officials and other long-term stakeholders.

Although the Government seems to have come to a standstill, the permanent civil service will be continuing their work, as will local MPs. Businesses should remain in contact with relevant civil servants, whose importance becomes increasingly important in providing stability to individual policies at times like these.

Organisations should also be in touch with their local MPs and councillors to highlight the importance of relationships (even if they ultimately prove less permanent), and to ensure that they continue to have strong allies in the House of Commons.

  1. Revisit policy priorities

Now is the opportunity for business to be a leading voice in the policy discourse.

There is a need for businesses and industry bodies to lead the conversations at times when the Government is not providing clear direction. Industries should be working together to put forward clear policy asks, working with trade bodies to determine cohesive policy positioning that any new Government can act upon.

There is now an excellent opportunity for organisations to push forward with their policy agendas, and to shape those of future governments. New governments want to work with businesses as partners, with whom they have a shared agenda.

At times of uncertainty, it is key to have as many many allies as possible. Inaction can lead to hard-earned wins being thrown by the wayside as previous commitments inevitably get cast aside. Uncertainty comes with opportunity, and it is important that businesses focus on how they can take advantage of this.

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