A busy week in politics
15 June 2017
Yet again, the pundits and (most) polls were wrong - very few people saw this election result coming. Last week no single party in the UK won a majority, resulting in a hung parliament. The Conservatives and the SNP lost seats, Labour, the Lib Dems and the DUP gained seats. It was also an election of complete obliteration for some parties with UKIP, the SDLP and Alliance losing all their MPs. Once again we are facing a new makeup of parliament with different power dynamics and alliances to get our head around.
We lost some good parliamentary champions of development such as Flick Drummond, David Burrowes, Mark Durkan, Nick Clegg and Amanda Solloway. Over the next parliament we will look to increase the number of international development champions in parliament across all the political parties.
A slow year ahead
For organisations attempting to lobby the government and achieve policy change it is going to be a slow year. The Conservatives are currently trying to strike a supply and confidence agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party; a firm agreement has not been reached and as such the Queen’s speech has been delayed. Soon we will start summer recess, followed by a week back in parliament and then a party conference recess. Brexit negotiations are likely to dominate the winter months, with little time for new legislation. It could be quite challenging to make inroads into parliament and government.
Reflecting this political fragility, Theresa May’s reshuffle was not as extensive as previously expected. The main positions (Chancellor, Home Office, Foreign Office and Brexit) remained the same. The interesting additions are Michael Gove to DEFRA and Damian Green as First Secretary of State. It appears as if Theresa May is trying to balance her government with Remainers and Brexiteers. Alastair Burt, Mark Lancaster and Alok Sharma are all passionate Remainers, yet Theresa May has also put Steve Baker into the Department for Leaving the EU. We are told that the Conservatives have no appetite for a leadership election and May has said that she will get the party “out of this mess.” Despite assurances that the leadership is stable, we must be prepared for the possibility of another election in the not too distant future.
For the first time, we have more MPs who are supportive of changing the Lobbying Act than those who want to keep it as it is. We will look to work with the Cabinet Office and the new minister Tracey Crouch to implement the recommendations in the Lord Harries review of the Act.
Changes in DFID
Many of our members will have noticed that the new DFID ministers were announced on Tuesday. Rory Stewart returns, Alastair Burt was brought in, and Lord Bates returns in the Lords. We also learnt that these positions will be joint DFID and FCO. The portfolios reflect regional areas, with Rory Stewart as the Africa minister and Alastair Burt as the Middle East minister.
There was speculation during the election that DFID could be merged with the FCO, heightened by rumours that Boris Johnson asked for greater oversight of the aid budget in his discussion with Theresa May after the election. Some newspapers have argued that the new joint ministers signify a “take over” of DFID by the FCO. However, joint positions are relatively common in government; indeed, Grant Shapps and Baroness Anelay were both DFID / FCO ministers.
It has been reported that the ministers will be accountable to Priti Patel and Boris Johnson. There are some potential positives that could arise: it could help cross-government working, improve aid quality in the FCO and join up the dots between our aid work and our foreign policy, such as in Yemen. However, understandably, some of our members have concerns about what this new dynamic could mean for aid spend, effectiveness and quality. It is crucial that UK aid continues to work for the poorest people in the poorest countries.
What's coming up?
As the dust settles from another round of political instability, Bond is looking to the next big dates in the calendar such as the G20, the Family Planning Summit and the High Level Political Forum. We look forward to working with parliament and government to deliver world class aid.