Political Waves: The Issues that will Define Politics in 2022

Boris Johnson could be forgiven for wanting to forget January as quickly as possible, with political threats and challenges seemingly on every front. But sadly, for him, the consequences of a mid-winter dominated by crises and potential economic turmoil, look set to echo throughout 2022.

Here’s a Brands2Life Public Affairs run down of the issues that will dominate British politics in the year ahead.

Levelling up

Two years after basing an election campaign on what for many was a largely intangible concept, the Government has finally launched its ‘Levelling Up’ white paper, and begun its mission to tackle regional imbalances and inequalities.

At the centre of the plan is a ‘devolution revolution’. The aim is to empower regions with new mayoral combined authorities, modelled on London, in one of the largest ever redistributions of power away from Westminster.  This could have a transformative impact, with local leaders taking decisions around issues crucial to their area, including, for example, approaches to public health and transport.

For a Conservative Party that has made levelling up a central platform of its policy agenda, including renaming a government department and appointing Michael Gove as Levelling Up Secretary, its success in implementing these plans in the next few months and years, will go a long way to deciding its fate at the next election.

For industry and businesses that wish to engage with the political process, it will become crucial to align your ideas and offer with the levelling up agenda, to make your ideas as compelling – politically and economically – as possible. For example, if you have a footprint across the UK, and are investing in the regions and creating jobs, telling this story will be crucial to your engagement with government.

Cost-of-living crisis

As winter gradually turns to spring, the British public are facing the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades. National Insurance is set to rise by 1.25% in April to pay for COVID, coupled with increasing energy prices and inflation heading over 6%.

How government handles this crisis could be the key issue at the next election.

In 2019, the Conservatives won over many voters in the ‘Red Wall’ seats with a promise that finally a Westminster government would focus on the issues that mattered to them. But with soaring household bills, will those voters feel that they are being listened to and where are the public and the government willing to compromise?

For example, despite the focus on climate change that the COP26 conference brought about in late 2021, there have been calls to scrap the green levy on energy bills to ease the squeeze on households – but how can a government that has placed climate change at the heart of its agenda balance its need to please voters with its commitment to green?

With the local elections in May looming, how the Government navigates this crisis will potentially define how the Tory leadership is seen in the electorate’s eyes.

Boris Johnson

It is an unescapable truth that the future of the current Prime Minister will be one of the dominant threads of UK politics in 2022 – no matter if or how long he survives.

If Johnson successfully navigates his current strife, coming months will see an ongoing analysis of his future prospects, competence and support from within his own party. The May local elections could effectively become a referendum on his leadership.

If Johnson is forced out by his party in the coming weeks, the country will have a new Prime Minister with a new approach, and perhaps most critically, new priorities.

Businesses across every sector will need to assess these new priorities, and where possible, align their own political engagement to this agenda.

Aside from these three key issues, Covid-19 will continue to be an ever-present feature of 2022, a year that will likely see the UK having to learn to live with COVID-19. Much of the political discourse will focus on what that actually means in practice. Competing interests – health, economic, societal – will mean that the Government will have difficult and in some cases life or death decisions to make on the UK’s approach to the pandemic.

For now, who will be the Prime Minister to take those decisions is perhaps the biggest political question of all.

If you would like a conversation about how best to navigate the turbulence of UK politics in 2022, email the Brands2Life Public Affairs Team, for an initial, informal conversation.