Political Intelligence for Businesses working with Government

GUIDE delivers political and market intelligence for corporate clients. To find out more, email Chief Executive Greig Baker on greig@theguideconsultancy.com 

Civil Service school

The Cabinet Office will be working with Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government to promote Social Impact Bonds and train Civil Servants in commissioning techniques. The “Government Outcomes Lab” will focus support on local commissioners, as part of Whitehall’s attempt to coordinate approaches by Local Authorities, the private sector and charities (paradoxically, within the Government’s devolution agenda).

Blurred lines

Budget pressures are blurring the line between central Government and large corporations, with Whitehall asking companies to deliver more and more of its policy agenda. The National Living Wage and Apprenticeship Levy are obvious examples and another step is taken today with the Cabinet Office’s creation of ‘national standards’ for private firms, designed to increase social mobility by tracking employees’ socio-economic background from childhood. For more details, see the announcement here: http://bit.ly/1Uc9xlA

How GCHQ will influence public sector contracts

This month, the Cabinet Office has released more details about the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which will be led by GCHQ’s Ciaran Martin and open for business in October. Its first job will be coordinate with the Bank of England to advise companies (especially financial services firms) on improving their cyber security. Notably, the NCSC will start work at the same time as the National Infrastructure Commission begins to advise Government on preparing for 5G.

All this points to the vital role of digital infrastructure for big Government policies from smart cities, to driverless cars, to public services being “digital by default”. Soon, if private companies want a piece of the public procurement pie, they will have to help deliver improved national cyber security too, just as they are already being forced to deliver social policies like apprenticeships to have a chance of winning any major Government contract.

More social policy by procurement

Companies seeking large contracts with local or central Government will soon have to add boosting IT services to the plethora of social policies (including apprenticeships, wage equality and gender equality) that they have to deliver beyond their core offer if they are to win public procurement bids. The Treasury’s instructions to Andrew Andonis’s National Infrastructure Commission give a hint of what’s to come:

“The Commission will advise the Government and its recommendations will underpin the Government’s 5G strategy, which will be announced in spring 2017.”

We expect all big public sector tenders (including those procuring beyond explicit IT and comms needs) will require a contribution to 5G infrastructure within the next two years. The first companies to adapt to this upcoming change will enjoy significant commercial advantages in terms of market share in the public sector.

Email us for more details.

IDS resignation forces ‘one nation’ policies

Two practical outcomes of IDS’s resignation will lead to more spending on poorer voters. With three months still to go until the EU referendum clears the air, the Government feels it needs to tack to the centre to counter IDS’s criticisms. At the same time, the Prime Minister has promoted pro-Remain MPs, who tend to come from the left of the party. So, to some extent at least, despite the continued pressure of austerity, IDS will have succeeded in his stated aim of changing Government policy “from the outside”, after being repeatedly dismissed while in post.

No longer servants, no longer civil (pt78)

Last week’s Budget has done nothing to calm the underlying (and worsening) tensions between Ministers and the Civil Service. Mandarins’ morale has been low for some time and, along with their willingness to support Ministers, is likely to fall further. #Budget16 hit Civil Servants’ pensions and put them front and centre of the EU referendum’s political bun fight, too, with the Treasury’s upcoming list of the benefits to ‘Remain’ pitched as a key part of the campaign. Given the state of the Labour party, UK politics effectively has a one-party state today – and in all one-party states, the Government is more at risk from opponents inside, not outside.

Why Budget headlines reverse by the weekend

Those of you at our post-Budget reception in Parliament last Thursday heard GUIDE’s Chief Exec, Greig Baker, citing the golden rule of Budgets: the tone of the headlines the next day is always reversed by the weekend. This year’s Budget conformed perfectly, with commentators’ complaints of an uneventful and reserved statement being blown out of the water by a series of explosive political revelations, topped off by IDS’s resignation.

The ‘golden rule’ holds because Chancellors either want to make a boring Budget exciting, or a dull one interesting. Either way, they spin it as much as they can, which only serves to alienate the colleagues and journalists made to feel hoodwinked and manipulated – and who then exact their revenge for weeks, long after the first morning’s headlines have been forgotten. The only surprise in this ritual is that otherwise politically astute Chancellors keep making the same mistake.

A very political Budget

Here’s our summary of what was a thoroughly political Budget statement yesterday…

1. There were a few gimmicks… “Investing £1.5m in child prosthetics” sounds good but is small beer. The Chancellor has a budget of £780bn, so boasting about £1.5m is a bit like a man who earns £50k telling his girlfriend he’s bought her a ring for 1/100th of a penny.

2. George Osborne thinks Jeremy Corbyn will be in post in 2020 and he is spiking Labour’s current message early and often.

3. The Treasury’s assessment of EU membership will be timed for effect, which could be risky. It could be too late to try something else and it will rely on public trust.

4. The debt and the deficit remain, with more cuts to come. These will be found in devolved funds and, for the most part, will be delivered by local politicians, not MPs.

5. Firms selling telecoms, support services and transport infrastructure to the public sector should do well, but they will have to deliver social policies to win big contracts.

6. The Government will try to build its way out of a downturn – proving that a politician is (literally) someone who, when they see there is a light at the end of the tunnel, will order more tunnel…

If you have specific questions about the Budget, please feel free to contact us.

The choice facing Labour MPs at Budget16

By GUIDE's Chief Executive, Greig Baker

Some people accuse Conservatives of wanting power at any cost. Having worked for the party during some of its darker days in Opposition, I can assure you that is not the case. However, most Tory MPs do understand you have to be in power to wield it.

When the Chancellor sits down after delivering his Budget, ambitious Labour MPs will have three choices if they want to wrestle the keys to Number 10 away from Cameron’s successor. First, they could drink the kool aid and hope against hope that Jeremy Corbyn has stumbled upon a new way of winning elections. More realistically, they will have to choose between options two and three – quietly rebelling or carefully splitting.

The rebellion option will be embodied by Rachel Reeves, Dan Jarvis, et al, who will set out their own response to the Budget, coming from a dramatically different position to Labour’s frontbench. In contrast, the splitting option has already been demonstrated by David Lammy and Andrew Adonis, who have been willing to give Corbyn a few more days’ bad headlines in return for the promise of actually getting stuff done. Given that Andrew Adonis’s recommendations from the National Infrastructure Commission will get great big lumps of real hard cash thrown behind them in the Budget, the understated rebels are going to have to do something special to persuade colleagues that they can offer a viable alternative.

Either way, the reaction to the statement will give us a clear sense of which Labour MPs know that you don’t actually have to be a Tory to want to be in Government.

The National Infrastructure Commission has real power… for now

The National Infrastructure Commission will be more powerful over the next three years than any time after that. This is for three reasons: first, the Chancellor must show that Labour politicians who join the Government’s “big tent”, like Andrew Adonis, achieve real influence by switching allegiance; second, the Treasury will use the “independence” of the NIC to justify spending decisions in a tough financial climate; and third, the NIC’s priorities were set in agreement with the current Government, so there will never be more confluence of interest in achieving those priorities than there is now.


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