WEDNESDAY 6 MAY 2015 2:49 PM


As the election draws closer, public affairs practitioners have ensured that they are ready for every eventuality. Carl Thomson, director at The Whitehouse Consultancy, says, “A good consultancy will have done the research and preparation beforehand. They will have advised their clients well before the election, on all the potential outcomes and what it could mean for their business.”

The current election campaign is changing the face of UK politics, with the amount of political parties represented greater than before and with a majority vote only one possible outcome.

James Bethell, director at Westbourne Communications, says, “It is Westbourne’s longstanding view that the old certainties are fading – the power is leaking from the centre. We’ve been used to majority party governments for ages, but for the rest of my life that’s just not going to happen. The public affairs profession needs to respond to the reality and figure out how to communicate with weak government and strong backbench.”

Bethell believes that this will prevent government from passing controversial action, instead, they will have to focus on policies where there is a degree of consensus or agreement with other parties. He says, “There are about a dozen areas where they all agree and I would have thought that under this new weak government regime, that’s where the focus will be.”

However, there are some issues, such as financial services and energy policy, which do continue to divide parties. Public affairs practitioners with clients operating in these areas face a range of different prospects following Thursday’s results.

The Whitehouse Consultancy work with a number of clients in the renewable energies and environment sector. Thomson identifies a range of possible outcomes following the election. He says “If a Labour government comes in they will be much more committed to certain technologies. Ed Miliband is a former energy and climate change secretary so he takes quite a big interest in the policy area.”

“We will be looking at greater focus and priority being put on certain technologies such as onshore wind, which has had quite a bit of resistance from the Conservative party.” He adds.

Under Labour government, there may be a focus on different technologies in the renewable energies sector, which would have repercussions for the companies that operate in it.

With a Conservative majority, Thomson predicts a reduction in support given to renewable energies such as onshore wind. He says, “We can expect to see the broad direction of policy carrying on, but looking to become more cost effective, which again will affect businesses operating in that sector.”

Being cost effective will be a priority for any government set-up. Bethell says, “Broadly our view is that the country is more or less out of money. There’s no new taxes that you can dream up that will create masses of new money. You’re really talking about moving money from one pot to another, or trying to find areas of consensus.”

Change following the 2015 election is likely to be less dramatic than in previous years due to the likelihood of a hung parliament and the convergence of separate party policies. However, as in any situation like this, public affairs practitioners will have to ensure that they know who they need to be speaking with, where they need to be recruiting from, and how their communications will be affected.

Thomson says, “We will have new ministers, we will have new shadow ministers, we will have new select committees, so there has got to be a period of reviewing and re-prepping and updating relationships and a period of knowing and understanding the priorities of the different people that are going to occupy those important positions.”


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