Media & PR

Think life is simpler? Think again

Here’s the piece I wrote for May’s CorpComms magazine about the impact of the general election on corporate communications:

Phew, we’re back to single party, majority government. Life is going to be easier for communications professionals now, isn’t it? Wrong, it won’t be.

It won’t be simpler for three reasons. First, small majority governments are vulnerable to small rebellions. Any backbench MP and a few mates can dream of leading a successful rebellion in the way only very few can only very rarely when there is a large majority. What’s more, although David Cameron’s status is currently boosted by his surprise victory, his record as a manager of backbench dissent is spotty and the party he leads is about to divide into yes and no camps in the promised European referendum. The omens for party unity are not promising.

Second, as the years roll on, MPs have been getting more rebellious. The last Parliament was the most rebellious since 1945. John Major’s time may be remembered as beset by backbench rebellions, but backbenchers have become far more rebellious since.

There are many theories about the cause of this long-term trend, but whatever factor is most important, backbench Conservative MPs can see how rebelling often leads to more local popularity – and isn’t a career stopper to joining government either. Rebellions are becoming the new normal.

Third, the position in Commons votes for the government seems positively pleasurable compared with the House of Lords. The previous coalition had a functioning majority in the Upper House, but the new Conservative-only government finds itself in a small minority.

Of the 779 peers, just 224 take the Conservative whip. The Parliament Acts and Salisbury Convention preclude the Lords from blocking major government initiatives, but that leaves plenty of scope for the Lords to secure changes in detail, especially when backed up by some rebellious MPs down the corridor.

So what does this mean for corporate communications? Find out who the influential peers are on the subjects that matter to you – and get to know the backbenchers who may be willing to rebel. Your list of stakeholders needs to extend far and wide beyond ministers, their staff and their shadows.

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