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  • Businesses now need to engage with all political parties

    The political landscape has changed forever as a result of the election, according to a panel of experts assembled by Portland.

    Businesses now need to engage with all political parties, they said. And traditional media has lost its influence.

    Speaking at the Portland General Election breakfast chaired by Portland’s chief adviser George Pascoe-Watson on Tuesday, Harriet Harman said: ‘Just clear out of your mind all the things you though you knew. If you want to have influence in terms of government, just going to Number 10 is not going to hack it.’

    Sucking up to The Daily Mail and The Sun is not going to hack it.

    ‘You need to talk to Ruth Davidson and Arlene Foster, and with the Labour Party, who are now strong and stable.’

    The former deputy leader of the Labour Party added: ‘Before the election, Theresa May was all-conquering, and we sat miserably in our seats at Prime Minister’s Questions while Jeremy Corbyn would come shambling in.

    ‘Now the other side is verging on the absolutely morbidly depressed and suicidal. If Jeremy Corbyn had lost seats, we would have been absolutely on him like a pack of wolves, but to the victor the spoils.’

    She flourished her electioneering rosette, as she said she believes another election could be imminent.

    James Cleverly, Tory MP for Braintree, agreed that the political terrain has become far less certain in the wake of the election result.

    ‘Everything we collectively thought we knew to be self-evidently true has question marks now,’ he said.

    ‘The 1922 committee last night indicated that the PM had very much begun to analyse what we had done wrong. We misread the runes.’

    Some positives had come from the election, he said. ‘Brexit was in the Conservative Party manifesto, so we are now protected.

    ‘The explosion of the SNP at the 2015 General Election has been shown to be very loud, very big, and very short-lived, and they are crumbling back in, protecting the state of the Union. That is good news.

    ‘A massive majority would have been nice, and decent majority was what we were after, and we didn’t get that. The Prime Minister took personal responsibility for those decisions.’

    He said that May has ‘calmed people down’, buying herself time, but that the big question now is whether Corbyn can become credible in Parliament as opposed to on the campaign trail. He acknowledged that May would be unlikely to lead the Tories into another election.

    Harman said that power leaches from a politician as soon as they become untenable long term – and that this now opens opportunities for wider engagement across Government.

    She said: ‘Theresa May is not the future anymore. Everyone in different government departments is thinking, who do we talk to now? We had better chum up with Ruth Davidson, Arlene Foster, and Jeremy Corbyn’s team.

    ‘That change is absolutely profound. She has shorn herself of her own authority. The idea that she gained credit by eating humble pie at the 1922 Committee, people don’t want somebody humble. That is the power of the voters, and the shift making a new situation.’

    Joe Twyman of YouGov said that the 2017 election marked the point where historical precedent became worthless as a tool.

    He said: ‘The idea that you can stop people in the street, or knock on doors and asking them questions, it doesn’t work like that anymore. The world is more complicated than that now.

    ‘We have a lot of historical precedents in this world, and historical precedents are great because they hold historically – right up until they don’t. And that is what we have discovered in this election, and in the Brexit referendum and previous general election.’

    For his part, Sunday Times political editor Tim Shipman said: ‘Corbyn is obviously the story of this entire thing.

    ‘For some reason the Conservative party, which has won a general election on the economy, chose not to talk about it, and locked the Chancellor of the Exchequer up in a darkened room. They seemed not to have noticed that the public is sick to death of austerity.’

    He added: ‘Is there going to be another general election? Well not if the Conservative party can prevent it for a while.

    ‘Going forward, for people in business, I think things are looking positive for you this morning. Nick Timothy has gone from Downing Street, a very clever man who had a lot of good ideas but did not have a great deal of sympathy for business.’

    Philip Hammond is much more business-friendly, he said, while cross-party efforts to bring together moderates on Brexit could also benefit business.

     

    If you are planning activity around the party conferences this year, our events team can help you on the ground. Get in touch events@portland-communications.com.

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