Our CEO Peter Holbrook looks back at the shock General Election results and what changes in Government may mean for the sector:
Can it only be 4 weeks ago, at a conference in Chelmsford that whilst acknowledging the current unpredictability of the world I suggested we should assume a strong and stable government in the next parliament. For me it’s a hattrick of misjudged political predictions starting with the 2015 general election where I put my money on a hung parliament. Don’t get me wrong, I was really quite happy being oh-so wrong, particularly given it was a surging youth vote and the collapse of UKIP that created this extraordinary outcome. I’ve long wished for greater youth involvement in politics and even more so, the collapse of UKIP.
Whilst it’s as fascinating as it is unpredictable for a political junkie like me, there are very serious implications for our sector and for the economy. The performance of the economy is critically important to us all and uncertainty can paralyse decision making, inward investment and policy development. Ongoing uncertainty will create turbulence for almost every business – no matter what industry, geography or size.
For those of us tasked with representing the sector at a national level it feels like the dice have been rolled and we’ve landed on a snake that’s taken us right back to the start of the board. Whatever your political leanings the outcome, partly at least, paralyses the social economy agenda.
There is some great news for the sector – I’m delighted that long-time colleague, Alex Sobel, former manager of Social Enterprise Yorkshire and Humber is newly elected in Leeds North West and James Frith, former chief executive of social enterprise ‘the all together’ is newly elected in Bury North. Congratulations Alex and James who fought vigorous campaigns in very tight marginals. We welcome back former BIS minister and social enterprise champion Jo Swinson and Vince Cable and many other sector supporters who maintained their seats such as Caroline Lucas, Peter Kyle, Richard Fuller and Nick Hurd.
I was personally very sad to hear that Chris White had lost his seat, Chris was very much a one nation Tory, whose foresight and commitment to the sector was evident in his early days as a newly elected MP in 2010. Chris’s private members bill which became the Social Value Act is an achievement that few politicians ever achieve – even those who spend decades in Westminster. Chris was always incredibly good natured and was committed to the whole social economy. It’s a little sad to say goodbye, but what a legacy he leaves. We look forward to working with his successor, Labour’s Matt Western. We also say good bye to former OCS Minister Rob Wilson who lost his Reading seat. Whilst Rob had few sector champions or admirers, after nearly 3 years in post he had at least developed an understanding of the sector and his brief. We wish him well of course and look forward to working with his successor Tracey Crouch MP.
It’s not just the loss of long-held, cross-party relationships with MP’s and ministers that frustrate our cause; as the Conservative’s demanded somebody’s head because of the catastrophic campaign. Along with the ousted Chief of staff, Nick Timothy and Director of policy Fiona Hill, went Charlotte Lawson who had only arrived in Downing Street a year earlier. Charlotte is an impressive and effective champion for the social economy who was, rather helpfully, right at the heart of Downing Street. Charlotte had a subtle yet significant impact on emancipating Matthew Hancock’s Anti-Advocacy Clauses, had opened Downing Street to our ideas and our members, had catalysed a further review of the Social Value Act and was on the verge of getting the PM to sign a new Compact with the sector.
So, in many respects, and in terms of one of our many jobs here at SEUK, it is back to the beginning – rebuilding, reforming and creating a whole host of new relationships whilst maintaining those that remain. We do so in the knowledge that yet another election could be just around the corner and our investment could be compromised. We do so with a new regional political landscape too – one that involves ever- greater devolution through elected mayors and further devolution expected on the horizon. And let us not forget Brexit. Soft, hard, open or closed it’s all to play for; decisions taken over the coming months will be critically important to us all. They will determine how commissioning, procurement, social value, state aid, tax reliefs and employment law might work for or against our sector. Policies will undoubtedly effect community energy, education, social care and touch just about every part of our lives.
We’re rolling up our sleeves and working out how we can do this with you, for you and with social justice and your social businesses at the forefront of our minds.