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 


Cameron doesn’t keep the seat warm

The Prime Minister may be forgiven for wishing David Cameron had held on until the General Election before standing down. His safe seat of Witney could have provided a welcome harbour for one of the existing Tory MPs likely to lose their own seat in the upcoming boundary review.

The GUIDE to the week, 8th September

GTTW is back after the long summer break. Now we have a date for the Autumn Statement (23rd November), I hope our regular briefs give you useful insights into Westminster and Whitehall over the coming weeks. Here’s our note for today…

Independence day

The independent Bank of England is about to launch a new corporate bond purchase scheme. This is a version of quantitative easing and, while it sounds dry, has attracted media attention because some of the firms receiving the cash are being heavily scrutinised. More widely, this is just the latest new political power for the bank – with no corresponding increase in its political oversight. Clashes between Mark Carney and Jacob Rees-Mogg frequently enliven Today In Parliament but they’re not the same as Government control.

Brexit, mate?

HMG is recruiting trade negotiators from New Zealand and Australia because we don’t have enough experienced Brits to carry out Brexit talks. The new recruits could boost UK sectors that tally with big industries back home – or they could raise the prospect of mixed loyalties (it’s also worth noting more than 30% of Australia’s exports are sold to China). Either way we need them, so the Government has no choice but to manage the risk.

Cost-free-costs

The Cabinet Office has published “social value procurement” case studies, which will increase pressure on private sector suppliers to deliver public policy goals. The case studies “proved” that suppliers can provide “social value outcomes at almost no extra cost”. As this Government hasn’t got any more money than the last one, it means bidders for big public sector contracts will have to add ever more to their pitch to win Government business.

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Civil Servants only ask questions when they know the answer

We noticed the Cabinet Office published the results of a “social value trial” from Harrow Council this week. The trial found suppliers can deliver social value outcomes to the public sector “at almost no extra cost”, that they can be paid to deliver social goods, and that the system should now be used for all local contracts over £100k. The conclusion wasn’t surprising (it’s exactly what it was supposed to be) but it’s still a helpful reminder that the Government has no money left and that it will make private sector suppliers deliver social policy through procurement. No doubt these trials will be referenced a lot in the run up to the Autumn Statement.

Brexit negotiators must avoid conflicts of interest

Because there are too few British trade negotiators, the UK Government is recruiting expertise from friendly nations, including Australia and New Zealand. Many of these staff have previously conducted talks focused on the extraction and food industries  that are mainstays of Antipodean economies, so UK firms from these sectors might take heart that their issues will be understood. But the UK also has to avoid any perception of conflicts of interest. These could come about by UK-employed foreign negotiators having one eye on supporting their own native markets, or how Brexit is viewed by their home countries’ major trading partners. For example, China is the biggest foreign market for both New Zealand and Australia, with more than 30% of Australian exports going to the Chinese.

Government rebuffs PAC

The latest Treasury minutes confirm the Government will not accept two recommendations from the Public Accounts Committee regarding accountability for spending. The PAC asked for Departments to set out which individuals are accountable for specific spending decisions and, most ambitiously, to encourage Civil Servants to notify Parliament when they have concerns over taxpayers’ value for money. Unsurprisingly, the Government resisted both calls – so it still falls to firms like GUIDE to explain what’s happening behind the scenes to interested parties outside Whitehall. The full Treasury minutes are here: http://bit.ly/29SNLia

May's blueprint

Rightly, political types have revisited May’s 2013 speech on her vision for Government. Business leaders should note three points that have survived into the new administration: first, social policy by procurement is set to continue, with major suppliers to Government expected to help deliver frontline public services; second, there are planned changes to corporate governance legislation to make executives accountable not only to their shareholders, but also their workers; and third, the Government’s industrial strategy will focus on a small range of sectors and focus different policies (education, tax, procurement, regulation and investment) on supporting them.

Crown Commercial Service

CCS published its annual report this week. Strikingly, while new ideas around management systems and structures have progressed, some issues remain regarding lower level staff and supplier engagement. There are reasonable explanations for some failures, but the need to prove CCS can translate ambition to action and ensure something happens when the levers of power are pulled remains.

What happens if Labour splits?

Her Majesty’s Official Opposition is the party with the most seats in the Commons that is not in Government. If Labour splits in two, the faction with the most seats would become the Opposition – and if both factions have more than 54 MPs, they would also knock the SNP into fourth place, causing the nationalists to lose most of their Parliamentary privileges (and making EVEL debates that much more important). The different factions from Labour would also have to vie over the £5m+ of short money it currently receives every year – and, awkwardly, it would probably need a motion put forward by the Government to redistribute the cash. That awkwardness would be nothing compared the wrangles over staff, property and debts, though. In short, this extraordinary political era is not going to calm down for a while yet.

EU negotiations: 2yrs is a long time in politics

The UK’s withdrawal negotiations do not have to last 2yrs. That timeframe is a maximum limit, not a minimum target, for when the UK must leave the EU institutions after enacting Article 50. Moreover, the new Government has strong incentives – a need to demonstrate a referendum dividend at home and the alternatives to EU membership abroad – to strike trade deals with non-EU countries as soon as possible. Until we officially leave the EU (which we have not done yet), those trade deals are not possible, as we are bound by EU rules until the very day we walk out. Far from a long drawn out process, EU talks could be much speedier than people think.

Predicting the new Cabinet

Sadly, predicting the new Cabinet is a mug's game - at this stage, the even the Prime Minister elect doesn't know the final line up. Cabinets are formed through a mix of merit, political balance, personal ties and blind luck (the PM does not know, for example, who might decline their first offer). We should know where the cards have fallen by the weekend.


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