A new team doesn’t mean a new strategy – some considerations about the reshuffle
November 15, 2023
The long-awaited reshuffle has finally happened. After various minor tweaks to the leadership team, the Prime Minister has decided to appoint a Cabinet of his own making – with people he can trust to guide the Government into the General Election. The Telegraph has produced a good visual snapshot of leavers and joiners.
The reshuffle is unlikely to change the Government’s strategy radically, and the Autumn Statement next week (22 November) still represents an important opportunity for the Prime Minister to reiterate his pitch to voters about whether he can be trusted to be in power for another five years. It is probably a safe bet now to assume that Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will stay in place until the election, despite rumours of his departure from the Treasury.
Whilst I suspect quite a few people were expecting Suella Braverman to be sacked at some point, no one could foresee former Prime Minister David Cameron coming back as Foreign Secretary.
What the reshuffle means for businesses
Reshuffles inevitably involve a period of adjustment, as the newly appointed people need time to get a grip on their ministerial portfolio. With so many ministers who have changed departments over the last two years – for example, Grant Shapps has held four cabinet posts in just over a year – they will face a fresh start yet again, with little or no time to get up to speed with their new department’s policies. Therefore, they will be heavily reliant on civil servants to be briefed, particularly with a General Election looming.
The election will dictate the timeline of parliamentary sittings too, with Bills less likely to become law if they are introduced after Christmas (particularly in the event of a general election in May). Currently, 14 of the 21 Bills in the King’s Speech have been introduced to Parliament (five of them being carried over from the last session), which means that there is not much time for businesses to engage and raise the issues they care about. They should act now and try to work with the civil service as much as possible (which is always best practice), to make sure they have a chance to be heard.
Start engaging with the Labour Shadow Cabinet
Businesses should not wait for the General Election’s outcome to engage with the Labour Party. Those who have pressing issues they would like to see addressed by the next Parliament should consider bringing them on the Labour Party’s radar or offering their support if they have solutions to a policy conundrum. In the event of victory, Labour will have to introduce new Bills as well, and now is the right time to get involved.
Consider early engagement with prospective candidates, particularly in the South East
By reading some Red Wall MPs’ comments, they are unlikely to back Sunak, even more so after Cameron’s appointment as Foreign Secretary. However, the former Prime Minister could still appeal to some of the voters in once Conservative safe seats that, according to some psephologists’ predictions, might tip towards the Liberal Democrats. A good example is Dominic Raab’s Esher and Walton constituency. He’s stepping down but the return of David Cameron and his One Nation conservativism still has support in the South East, making the swing towards the Lib Dems slightly harder.
The list of Conservative MPs leaving Parliament at the next General Election is growing, and it is tactically a good move to brief the party’s candidates in those constituencies to ensure they are aware of you and your issues – if they end up beating their opponents.
How FINN Partners can help
Our team of specialists has worked with the UK government, regulatory bodies, local authorities as well as the EU Commission and Parliament. We have experience across multiple sectors including energy, manufacturing, built environment, financial services, technology and internet regulation, professional services, NGOs and charities, sustainability and ESG. Our corporate communications and global intelligence teams are also an integral part of our integrated offer to clients.
Please do get in touch if you have any questions or would like to discuss how the public affairs team can support your business ahead of the General Election.
Carolina Gasparoli, Vice-President, London Office: firstname.lastname@example.org