A week on from the election, a clearer picture is forming of Boris Johnson’s programme for government. A large Commons majority means that the Government will be empowered in its decision-making in a way that has become unfamiliar after a decade of mostly coalition or minority government, and a full domestic agenda shows that it wants to take advantage of this. Yesterday’s Queen’s Speech confirmed its legislative priorities, but there are other important developments over the next year to consider. The first is a budget: Sajid Javid has not held one since he became Chancellor in July, and this will be an opportunity for the Government to re-commit to increasing the minimum wage and explore some potential tax changes beyond cancelling the reduction in corporation tax. There will also be another Spending Review next year, this time a full three-year review rather than the single-year settlement reached in the autumn. This will set departmental spending until 2024 and see pressure on the Treasury from several departments to loosen further the purse strings.
Local government likely to be a political focus
The Conservatives came in for criticism during the election campaign for committing little in the way of additional funding for local government in light of a range of ongoing pressures on budgets. This should be expected to be a running theme over the coming months, not least because the Government is still yet to publish a full local government finance settlement for next year having been due to do so before now, and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will be at the forefront of those departments demanding an improved settlement in next year’s Spending Review. With both adult social care and devolution at the forefront of the Government’s thinking in light of the election result and the gains the Conservatives have made in the North and Midlands, MHCLG and local government leaders will feel they have a strong case to be at the front of the queue for more funding.
What next for Labour?
Once again, Labour is left to reflect on a general election defeat. Whatever the results of its election post-mortem, it is unlikely that a new Labour leader abandons entirely the policy platform that has been built over the last four years. Not only are even ‘moderate’ potential candidates like Keir Starmer stating that they want to continue the ‘radicalism’ of the Corbyn approach, but the fact that many of the party’s internal decision-making institutions are filled with representatives sympathetic to the Corbyn project – including its National Policy Forum – means it will be difficult for a new leader next March to take a drastically different course. While the risk of a Corbyn-led government is no longer – and Labour will have little influence from opposition on government policy – businesses should be mindful that Labour retreating from many of its most popular manifesto pledges is unlikely.