POLITICAL & COMMERCIAL INTELLIGENCE

We help companies affected by political change. To access our political and commercial intelligence service, email GUIDE’s Chief Executive on greig@theguideconsultancy.com


(Fixed) term-time

Just as children return to school, the Government has effectively confirmed it is dropping plans to scrap the Fixed Term Parliament Act. On Tuesday, Chris Skidmore explained that a committee will “if appropriate, make recommendations for its repeal or amendment” sometime in or after 2020. Given the Conservatives’ lack of electoral self-confidence and the Government’s slim working majority, it’s easy to see the appeal of keeping the Act on the books.

Guns and butter

Leaked documents and low politics kept the new ship building strategy off front pages today, but the Government’s newly published paper should get more attention for at least two reasons.

The first is (inevitably) Brexit-related, in that defence spending is one of the few areas where the Government can skip past EU state aid rules and ‘buy British’. At the same time, our contribution to defence and security (and the relatively large amount of cash we put into it) is a strong card in the EU negotiations, so flexing these procurement muscles does the UK no harm.

The second reason the paper is important is that it sets a precedent for how HMG buys very large projects. A maximum price of £250m per ship is set for the newly commissioned frigates, with yards asked to build the best ship they can for the money. As HMG looks around for new ways to avoid price overruns on other big spends, suppliers could soon find themselves on the receiving end of a similar approach.

Clever Corbyn on Brexit

People who really follow Labour’s twists and turns over Brexit may be frustrated at that party’s lack of clarity on the biggest issue of the day, but Corbyn is playing to a different audience – the general public.

Sir Keir Starmer’s much vaunted ambition to stay in the single market and ‘a’ customs union after March 2019 is close enough to the Government’s goals for a transition deal that Labour could effectively neutralise the issue in a snap General Election campaign, in the same way that New Labour defused fears about its tax and spend plans in 1997 by promising to mirror the Conservatives’ policies for at least two years.

If the Conservatives are to succeed at the polls next time round, they will need to communicate a distinct – and distinctly better – offer than Labour on Brexit, which is proving hard to do.

Parliament acting, but no Parliament Act

The Government’s intention to extend this session of Parliament to two years (rather than the usual one) is partly designed to help see through the Brexit process. It also takes one tool out of the Government’s kitbag – to use the Parliament Act, whereby the Commons overrules opposition from the Lords, a Bill needs to be presented in two different sessions with at least one year in between each attempt.

Singapore-on-Rhine

Ironically, Brexit is encouraging EU27 markets to look at deregulating some parts of their economies. Germany’s Volker Bouffier, vice chair of Merkel’s CDU, for example, is reviewing labour laws in a bid to encourage bankers to move there. We expect to see a more ‘Anglo-Saxon’ model in some sectors on the continent – though the absence of a British brake on statist intervention will be felt more keenly elsewhere. 

Lies, damn lies and polling

One of our team used to be a pollster - here’s a quick brief on why you really should ignore the polls this time around: first, front page figures are still using national samples – not detailed results from the seats that are actually in contention; second, there is more reliance on the ‘art’ of polling now than before (it has always been a balance of art vs science) with different companies just guessing likely turnout among key voter groups; and third, there’s evidence that voters are increasingly aware of the impact of polling on the political narrative, so they use it to send a message rather than describe how they’ll vote – think petitions rather than commitments. There are one or two honourable exceptions, but most polling companies will prove they’re lucky rather than good if they get close to the final result.

Herding cats

One consistent feature around the country is Conservative candidates’ new-found belief that they are less indebted to the PM than they originally thought. In addition, local pressures to ‘deliver’ Brexit and social care giving prospective MPs an early lesson in how to rebel effectively, Conservative Whips will have their work cut out.

Mitigating Brexit

Over the coming days we will publish a report on public sector spending and Brexit. A summary will be available on this site and the full report will be available by contacting greig@theguideconsultancy.com 

What the EU guidelines really say about Brexit

The posturing over Gibraltar looms large in the news but other important details have been missed by media commentators. Here are three examples:

1/ The European Council “will remain permanently seized” of Brexit and “update these guidelines in the course of the negotiations as necessary”. In other words, the Commission shouldn’t get ahead of itself and the Council will step in, if necessary, to change the negotiating guidelines at any time.

2/ The EU is worried about competition from a low-tax, low-regulation developed economy on its doorstep, so any deal offered by the EU will include restrictions on the UK that deliver “a level playing field” post-Brexit.

3/ The “unique circumstances on the island of Ireland” will mean a hard Northern Irish border will be avoided at all costs – it’s more likely the Irish Government will be responsible for customs arrangements for the whole island and the ‘hard border’ will be on the west coast of mainland Great Britain.

Government demands more cyber security from suppliers

Following criticism from the Public Accounts Committee, the Government will publish a newly updated Security Policy Framework in December, with the aim of “establishing a clear approach for protecting information across the whole of the public sector and delivery partners”. The Government will also ask suppliers to provide more details on the costs and performance of the services they deliver – which in turn means suppliers will increasingly find themselves under public scrutiny.


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