Category Archives: Government

Labour reshuffle: Keir puts Labour on election footing with ‘battle-ready’ team

GK Associate Director David Mitchell looks at the Labour Party’s reshuffle of its Shadow Cabinet, and what we can understand from Sir Keir Starmer’s new look team. 

The Leader of the Opposition’s Office has invested enormous energy to underpin the value of message discipline into the Labour ranks in the first half of this year. This has centred around the importance of fiscal responsibility, which must trump all else. As Parliament returns today, Keir and his team has convened a team that has experience and consists of media performers to communicate that message to the voters.

The influence of Labour’s most electorally successful leader Tony Blair was evident in today’s reshuffle. From a commitment over the weekend not to raise income tax in the next Parliament (similar to the run up to the 1997 election), to today’s announcement that saw the promotion of Blairites such as Pat McFadden and Liz Kendall. The former was Blair’s Political Secretary and will now take up the role of Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and National Campaign Co-ordinator. In this role Pat will be responsible for ensuring the party is externally aligned across all shadow departments, as well as ensuring a co-ordinated message is presented to the electorate.

This reshuffle was not just about the removal of the remaining remnants of the Corbyn years but was notable for the pivot away from those seen as from the ‘soft left’ of the Labour Party. Lisa Nandy, seen as the face of this wing of the Party, has found herself demoted from the strategically important levelling up brief to Shadow Cabinet Minister for International Development. In this context, today’s reshuffle reflects not just a gradual move in the political direction of the Labour Party, but a substantial positioning of the Party in the centre ground.

The decisiveness of Keir’s reshuffle today is a culmination of changes through the party’s structures including the National Executive Committee, but also a reflection of a healthy and sustained polling lead that the Party has held since the start of 2022. Of course, Keir does not have everything his own way. His relationship with Deputy Leader Angela Rayner, which has been described as ‘tense’ and ‘challenging’ saw Angela emerge as a big winner, adopting the Shadow Deputy Prime Minister and Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling up brief.

This is a team that Keir is now confident that he can go to party conference in Liverpool in a few weeks’ time, and present as a government in waiting. LOTO will be aware there will be a buoyant atmosphere and excitement with delegates and activists in attendance, he will now hope his new team will importantly rub off with the voters watching at home.

GK Point of View: The NHS and Us

On the 75th anniversary of the National Health Service, GK Strategic Advisor and former Minister of State for Care Services, Phil Hope, reflects on the NHS in its current form and looks ahead to how the UK’s major political parties will position their offering for the health system. Find Phil’s commentary here: NHS 75th Anniversary

GK Point of View – New Downing Street

As the new Prime Minster, Liz Truss, returns to London from Scotland this afternoon, her closest advisers have already moved into No. 10 marking the end of the leadership campaign and the start of her administration.

Despite some Johnson advisers having offered to stay on under Truss, the team has been almost entirely cleared out. Demonstrating the extent to which this marks a clean start from the poor reputation and disorganisation that beset the previous political operation.

Politically experienced and close to Truss, they will quickly get used to the rabbit warren behind the world’s most famous front door. Chief among them Mark Fulbrook who was brought in to head up the leadership campaign when things got serious will be a senior respected Chief of Staff and will ensure the operation is focussed on and geared up for the next General Election. Trusted and long-standing adviser, Ruth Porter, who has been at Truss’ side throughout the campaign, will reinforce the professionalism in the top team, known for gripping issues and ensuring delivery.

The Prime Minister brings with her to No.10 the closest members of her team from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. Senior staffers will take up key roles, including Jamie Hope (Director of Policy) and Adam Jones (Political Director of Communications) working alongside Simon McGee (Director of Communications).

Other key figures in the new No.10 include Jason Stein who is understood to have responsibility for PMQs prep, John Bew remains the foreign affairs adviser, an important link into the new team of Special Advisers that will support the new Foreign Secretary over the road at King Charles Street. It remains to be seen how long Simon Case lasts, James Bowler who worked with Truss at the Department for International Trade is a leading contender for the senior civil servant role.

Whatever the pending announcements around energy, the economy and cost of living, this is a capable team who have only two short years before a General Election. They hit the ground running. Only time will tell how far the (expensive) tank of gas will take them.

For further details on the new team in Downing Street or developments at Westminster, please email Scott Dodsworth, GK Strategy

GK Point of View - Digital Strategy announced during London Tech Week

GK Point of View – Digital Strategy announced during London Tech Week

GK Associate, Nicole Wyatt, analyses the biggest talking points from the recently published Digital Strategy. 

The British Government published its new 2022 Digital Strategy to commence London Tech Week on 13th June.

As its name suggests, London Tech Week ran across five days in the UK’s capital and brought together over 20,000 governmental and corporate leaders from around the world including a hologram-version of Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky. Besides the Digital Strategy, other policy announcements included the UK’s digital trade agreement with Singapore (which is already coming into force), a health data strategy, and the ’Future of compute’ review.

The mere fact that London has its own tech-focused week, including thousands of fringe events, illustrates how the city (and the UK more widely) is at the centre of the broader tech ecosystem. Indeed, the UK’s tech sector raised £27.4 billion in private capital in 2021 – more than any other European country – and Boris Johnson’s government is putting a particularly strong emphasis on digital and tech policy. This is evidenced by the fact that, for example, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) is handling a larger number of legislative bills than any other government department.

Digital policy is also a way for the UK Government to diverge from the European Union’s regulatory framework, particularly as far as data is concerned. Just after London Tech Week, in fact, Ministers published their response to the consultation ‘Data: a new direction’, which seeks to reinvigorate the UK’s data regime to promote more competition and innovation than was possible under EU rules, especially with its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – which critics regarded as excessively complex.

The Digital Strategy, itself, is an update on its 2017 predecessor. It suggests that its proposed approach to supporting and strengthening the UK’s digital economy could grow its tech sector by an additional £41.5 billion by 2025 and create a further 678,000 jobs, while making the UK a world leader in artificial intelligence (AI), semiconductor design and quantum computing.

The Strategy sets out the Government’s vision for harnessing digital transformation and building a more inclusive, competitive and innovative digital economy. It focuses on six key areas:

  • Digital foundations: developing the UK’s digital infrastructure and strengthening regulations around data, competition and security, to support the Government’s pro-innovation agenda.
  • Ideas and intellectual property: supporting the UK’s innovation ecosystem to foster growing R&D initiatives among universities and in private sector businesses.
  • Digital skills and talent: increasing the supply of digitally and tech-enabled workers throughout the supply chain to promote greater economic prosperity, through (among other initiatives) strengthening the digital education pipeline and attracting the best global talent.
  • Financing digital growth: encouraging UK capital with incentives such as tax reliefs for start-ups and businesses, which will improve the tech ecosystem to ensure that Britain remains one of the best places to start and run a digital technology business.
  • Spreading prosperity and levelling up: exploring how everyone from every industry can benefit from digital innovation in the UK, while also supporting the net zero agenda.
  • Enhancing the UK’s place in the world: influencing tech policy beyond the UK’s borders to be a trailblazer in this space, as well as collaborating through strong international partnerships.

Included in the Strategy is an annex of all of the Government’s new and ongoing initiatives to support, in practice, its strategic aims. Some of the new initiatives announced include:

  • Establishment of a joint UK/US Prize Challenge to accelerate the development of Privacy-Enhancing Technologies (PETs).
  • Creation of a Digital Skills Council, to replace the Digital Skills Partnership Board, as a form of liaison between government and industry on how to address digital skills shortages.
  • Review into the ‘Future of compute – seeking to create recommendations for improving the country’s computing capacity over the next decade.
  • A revised version of the UK digital identity trust framework, with a related consultation seeking views on the Government’s proposed approach.

Notably, artificial intelligence (AI) as well as other rapidly growing fields such as blockchain and quantum computing, were included but with only limited details. As many other governments are concluding, this is currently a highly unregulated space and many hotly debated discussions are taking place about if, where and how legislate. The UK is seeking to lead the way but exactly how it will do so will be revealed in an eagerly anticipated AI White Paper.

Overall, this Digital Strategy seems to be largely a recap of what the UK Government is already doing, and striving to do, across various departments in order to shift digital policy to be more pro-innovation and pro-competition. Announced at London Tech Week, the motives behind the new Strategy, just five years after the previous version was published, demonstrate the UK Government’s desire to showcase the nation as a leader in digitalisation.