here is no doubt that the departure of Dominic Cummings a couple of weeks ago will be welcomed by many Conservative MPs. Along with the resignation of Lee Cain, former Director of Communications, this looks like a weakening of the Vote Leave stronghold inside the heart of Government. While this will have consequences across Number 10, the main question most people are asking is, how this will impact on Brexit?
The PM has already stated that No Deal is still on the table, reaffirming the hard-lined approach that helped the Conservatives win over the red wall seats at the last election. Furthermore, David Frost, who is leading the negotiations, has taken a much tougher stance with the EU than many Cabinet Ministers, senior aides and his predecessors. The departure of a single advisor, as influential as he was, will not affect the Government position on Brexit, nor making a trade agreement with the EU any more or less likely.
Cummings’ departure will, however, have wider implications over the policy direction coming from Number 10. It is likely this will be softer and more akin to ‘One Nation Toryism’ as the PM seeks to deflect attention away from the public fallout over a second lockdown, and the furore over free school meals.
Encouraged by many, including partner Carrie Symonds, there will be a strong focus on the green agenda which we have already seen in last week’s 10 Point Plan for Net Zero. There is also likely to be a less combative stance taken on areas such as civil service reform and the BBC. These are areas which, in my mind, were targeted specifically by Cummings and without the full backing of the Conservative Party.
Most importantly, the Prime Minister will need to build bridges with his own backbench MPs who have for a long time been at logger heads with his team. However, as well as metaphorical bridges, Boris Johnson will want to build physical ones too.
As well as metaphorical bridges, Boris Johnson will want to build physical ones too. Cameron McIntosh
Unifying the party once again around a levelling up agenda, new investments in vital infrastructure and kickstarting an ambitious post-COVID recovery plan, are critical to rebuilding trust with the public, voters in these newly blue seats and keeping the newest intake of MPs happy.
Many commentators will be keeping a close eye on how this reset unfolds over the coming months, but ACE members, and the industry more widely, will be delighted to note that once again we are central to Government thinking. We can act as a driver for growth in our own right, but also as a catalyst for wider recovery, while the political symbolism of marquee infrastructure projects means our work will remain front and centre of Number 10’s thinking for a while yet.
Cameron McIntosh is Policy Manager - Local Infrastructure and Parliamentary Liaison at the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE).
Brexit: The Final Countdown is a one-off practical webinar for members which takes place on Monday 7 December 2020. Sign-up now.