How to engage the new Government

Three opportunities for businesses

As the dust settles on the General Election, the task of governing now begins for Labour.

And while every minister will have a full in-tray covering an enormous range of issues, all will have three priorities in common in the coming days:

  • Demonstrating that a change is coming
  • Connecting with businesses across departmental portfolios
  • Establishing a working relationship with the civil service

All three present opportunities for industry to shape its operating and commercial environment for years to come.

So, what do businesses need to do to seize this opportunity?

Priority One: Defining a narrative that taps into the Government’s ‘change’ agenda

In its first 72 hours in power, Labour has taken every opportunity to signal to the public that it will usher in a new approach to governing; one that has delivering change at its heart.

This will be, and already is, clear in every announcement and decision that the Government takes, from Keir Starmer’s reset of the relationship with the Irish Government, to lifting the ban on on-shore wind farms, to Chancellor Rachel Reeves’ announcement on planning reform.

That change in tone is critical for businesses, and it will be one that every minister, across all departments, puts at the centre of their approach.

The first three months of the new Government is of particular importance. Expectations will be high and there will be intense pressure on Labour to begin delivering in areas that are genuinely front of mind for the public.

Starmer has been clear that he will judge his ministers on delivery. They will therefore welcome input from organisations that can help them to demonstrate alignment with the central theme of change.

At the heart of what businesses now need to do, is craft a compelling narrative about what you offer. It should lean into the ‘change’ agenda and demonstrate why your ideas and policy proposals support this new approach.

The foundation of this narrative should be a your clear, core policy recommendations, supported by clear proof points, ideally demonstrating the economic impact of your ideas. Importantly, it should be designed to be deployed across multiple channels – from private briefing documents to social media and media relations.

Your engagement over the coming years will rely on getting this narrative correct, now.

Priority Two: Understanding the personalities across departments that will shape your commercial environment

The last two years have seen a very successful drive by Labour to re-establish its relationship and trust with industry. Consistent engagement with businesses has been central to this but maintaining that engagement will become harder in power.

Policy development cycles will speed up dramatically. No longer will the Party have the luxury of months to develop a policy platform; it will need to respond to external events and economic developments in a matter of hours, and may well not have the time to properly consult the business community.

To prepare for such scenarios, when it will be hard to engage ad hoc and at pace, the Party will need to develop an (even better) understanding of the needs of industry and an intuition for how they may react. And to do that, an open dialogue with businesses will be critical.

Already the new Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds has convened a conference call with leading British businesses. It is a clear signal to the business community that it will play an important role in how the Government develops policy from the outset.

And beyond Jonathan Reynolds and his team, each minister across government knows that successful delivery on major policy challenges depends upon investment and support from businesses in their sector.

The priority for businesses is to identify the touchpoints across every department that will have an impact on your operating environment, or where your business can provide insight or investment.

Forensic analysis of the personalities involved, their views and priorities will be critical to establishing a positive working relationship, and ensuring that your ideas can help shape policy development, rather than just react to it.

Priority Three: Using the civil service as a route to influence Labour policy

In just 72 hours, the Labour Party has gone from a ‘SME’ with just a few hundred staff, to running the country and having half a million civil servants at its service.

For new ministers, establishing a strong relationship with key civil servants will be a critical task. They will need advice and guidance, but also a level of trust that the civil servants working with them understand their vision and how to deliver it.

The complexities and challenges of navigating that new relationship present an opportunity for businesses of all sizes. Senior civil servants are typically very accomplished and experienced, but in most cases they do not have the first-hand understanding of business that you, as a business leader, do.

That means, as they attempt to develop and implement policy that meets their new minister’s vision, they will be looking for external expertise and insight to assist them. A critical task for business in the new government’s first 100 days is to position yourself as that source of advice.

Engaging with new ministers and MPs in the coming weeks will be at the top of most organisations’ to do lists. But ignore the civil service at your peril; help and insight offered now, will bring benefits for a long time.

Lean in to the specific expertise you can offer, depending on the size and nature of the business you run. Civil servants need to understand the challenges facing businesses of all size; from start-ups to corporate giants. Do not mistakenly leave the engagement to the largest companies. Their needs will be different, and while there may be wider businesses issues that they raise, they are unlikely to represent your specific needs.

Your communication should take the form of precise and specific policy advice, with clear signposts for how it will help the civil servant meet the minister’s and the Government’s vision.

Engagement begins now

The Government may currently be focused on embedding its message of change within the public consciousness, but the real test will come in the weeks ahead, when it must show the electorate that this promise is more than just words and will deliver a tangible change to their lives.

This need to drive change presents a critical opportunity for businesses to get involved.  If you don’t, you risk your competitors stealing a march and gaining both the ear of government and competitive advantage.

If you would like an informal conversation about how best to start work on these three priorities, and your engagement with the new Government, please email [email protected].