Politics has been dominated in recent years by Brexit and Covid. The amount of space for other issues, the ‘normal’ business of government, has had very little space. That is now starting to change, and we all need to be prepared for the rush of policies, ideas, consultations and, potentially, legislation.
The machinery of government is starting to wake up.
It is not that Government has been completely focused on Brexit and Covid for the past few years but there is no doubt that it has taken up most of the time and attention. What other announcements have been made have tended to be fitted in around those key issues.
But with the success of the vaccine roll-out and time before the next General Election starting to slip away, the Government has been forced to step-up. There will be a mix of policies aimed squarely at the electorate and those aimed at improving the way that the country and /or economy works. There could well be direct benefits to the population of such administrative changes, but they are less immediately obvious and often more difficult to explain.
The Budget very much set the tone for the mix of policies that we are starting to see, not least with the announcement of the Freeports followed up with clarity on gigabit broadband rollout and the national bus strategy. Add in the levelling up fund, and other supporting funds, and It is clear that much of this has a clear electoral imperative behind it ahead of the more immediate local elections and the more distant General Election.
But the policies are coming from across a range of Government departments, they are not focused solely on No10 or the Treasury (or Health for the Covid measures).
Whereas it has been tricky to think of too many policies outside of Covid and Brexit, now the list starts to look much more impressive. This, I hasten to add, not a full list and I am sure that others will be able to point to others as well. Some have recently been announced, others are coming ‘soon’…
- Big Four breakup
- Gambling Review
- Devolution and Local Growth White Paper
- Asylum and immigration reform
- Publication of the Defence review
- Shift in Industrial Strategy to Plan for Growth
- Civil service relocations
- New ARIA / the focus on R&D
- Transport decarbonation plan
- Shapps / Williams rail review
- Industrial decarbonisation strategy
Then add in the regulatory reviews taking place and some of the policy areas with larger questions marks such as social care and there suddenly looks like a much more packed Government agenda.
None of this is to say that the pressure points of Brexit or Covid have gone away or have been solved. But rather there is now more that we need to pay attention to and more to get involved with. There will certainly need to be more engagement with officials and parliamentarians again. Although, for a while at least, we are going to have to remain largely virtual. None of us can really count on going back to events in Parliament until probably around October.
With the announcements will come the usual scrutiny by Parliament, its Committees, the media, as well as the formal channels for engagement such as consultations etc. So, we all need to be paying attention to announcements, thinking about our engagement, but maybe also ways in which we can manage the sudden expansion of policies. There may also be the need to need to dust off the tools we use to fight back against announcements as well. There is no guaranteeing that everyone will find them positive.
It’s nice to have Government back!