This morning’s dramatic news – that there will be a snap General Election on 8th June – has taken many of us (but not Newgate!) by surprise. While many commentators and Conservative Party supporters had been advocating an early election for the Prime Minister to win a direct mandate, enhance her Parliamentary majority and take advantage of Labour’s historically negative poll ratings, it was widely thought in Westminster that Theresa May would resist these calls and remain focused on governing the country and preparing for the upcoming Brexit negotiations. Indeed, only last month, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said that “there is not going to be a general election” – so today’s announcement has caused something of a shock.
Mrs May outlined her decision outside Number 10 this morning, stating that she had “only recently and reluctantly” concluded that an election was desirable. She claimed that a general election was required ahead of detailed negotiations with the EU on Brexit, noting that, “division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit and it will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country” and that “if we do not hold a general election now their political game-playing will continue.” Many also believe that the latest opinion polls are a considerable factor in her decision, with recent figures showing the Conservative Party with a significant 20+ percentage point lead over Labour.
Regardless of the reasons, there is a lot to take in at this stage. There will be significant implications in terms of the political and policy agenda – both in the immediate and long-term, which many will be assessing. Many of these consequences are as yet unknown. In the meantime, however, we suggest that those organisations with an interest in the public policy agenda should be looking out the following:
Timetable and likely next steps
- The Prime Minister has stated that she will lay a motion in the House of Commons calling for a general election, which under the terms set out by the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, will require a two-thirds majority of MPs to vote for it. Given that the Labour Party has confirmed that it will vote for this motion, we can assume that this motion will be a formality.
- Once this motion has been passed, the timetable for election period will be confirmed. Number 10 has said that Parliament will be dissolved on 3rd of May, where we will enter ‘purdah’ and the start of the ‘short campaign’ for the election (where the Government will be subject to strict rules on policy announcements and all political parties will be on spending). Any remaining legislative developments and policy announcements must be completed before the 3rd
- Key developments to look out for include the publication of party manifestos, major set piece announcements from the main parties and possibly TV debates
- This may impact upcoming Brexit negotiations. The European Council Summit is due to take place on 29th April, with a summit of the UK and EU 27 to take place agree process of negotiations in June – so this may now be delayed.
- An election will of course impact on an organisation’s existing relations with MPs, including local constituency MPs. A number of MPs have already announced that they will be standing down and they will be joined by many more.
- It is worth noting that previous plans for boundary changes will not be implemented, so the current constituencies will remain.
- We will be assessing the likely changes, key marginals, the possible new candidates and the likely consequences to the electoral landscape.
Opportunities to influence and wider communications in campaign period
- Given the circumstance in which this election has been called, the publication of the manifestos is likely to be a significant event. The Prime Minister is seeking a strong mandate to govern through Brexit negotiations and the Conservative Party manifesto is likely to form a strong basis for this.
- There may be a short window of opportunity to influence the manifestos. A key aspect of this is identifying the key writers and influencers of these.
- More generally, it should be noted that we are entering a sensitive period where industry and policy communications may be heavily politicised. Therefore, any upcoming communications during this time should be reviewed carefully.
If we can be of any assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact the Public Affairs team at Newgate.