As Theresa May calls time on her period as Prime Minister, politics in the UK enters into a new period of instability.
Much will be written in the next few weeks about her successor and the direction in which they will take the country.
But regardless of who does eventually succeed her, there are five important principles that businesses should continue to bear in mind for public affairs activity going forward:
- Remember to count when it comes to Brexit. Changing the Prime Minister doesn’t change the numbers in Parliament. The new Prime Minister will face the same limited freedom for manoeuvre on Brexit as this one. This most likely means further Brexit delay or something to get fresh consent for a way forward – whether a referendum or a general election. Tory leadership candidates will be under huge pressure to rule these out on the stump. But remember that Theresa May also did that once.
- MPs have as much influence as Prime Ministers. Until there is a General Election, the UK will continue to have a weak executive. It obviously matters who the next Tory leader is because the office of Number 10 can breathe life into policy agendas. So follow the players closely. But other actors such as backbench MPs and regulators remain important in terms of domestic policy interactions.
- Cultivate the civil service. Few of the Conservative leadership candidates have done much deep thinking of their own about policy. So by all means get to know the key players for visibility. But the civil service is an important route for shaping new policies and stopping bad ones.
- The survival of the Conservative Party in its current form is not a given – so stay close to the different factions. All businesses can do for now is keep links broad with different parts of the existing parliamentary party from the ERG to the One Nation caucus.
- All the current instability means there is a material chance of a General Election this year – plan ahead. The UK – like other European countries – is going through a period of political realignment. No one really knows what this means in a first past the post electoral system. Businesses need to have proper scenario plans in place for all eventualities.