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The New Cabinet - 1 Month On

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The New Cabinet - 1 Month On

Yes, it has now been over a month since Theresa May’s reshuffle. Doesn’t time fly? Here, we present some of our new Ministers with a report card from their first month.

 

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TOP OF THE CLASS

There can only be one place to start. New DCMS Secretary, Matt Hancock, and the now famous (or infamous?) Matt Hancock App. The app (with over 1,000 downloads), the first of its kind, updates users on Mr Hancock’s activities and allows members of the public to sign up as friends and chat with other users of the app.

To date, the app appears to have drawn an eclectic variety of users with one user (as shown below) particularly engaged if not entirely serious!

It is easy to poke fun at the Matt Hancock app. If this seems familiar you may be remembering a Thick of It episode and a hapless Minister, but by not taking it too seriously, Hancock is getting good interaction at a time when the wider party has been having somewhat of a crisis of confidence when it comes to social media.

 

MUST DO BETTER

A blog post written in 2012 by new Tory Vice-Chairman Ben Bradley has recently resurfaced following some media digging after his promotion. The blog post suggested benefit claimants should have vasectomies. Rightly, Mr Bradley has apologised.

Alas, Mr Bradley’s problems do not end there. He has also been forced to apologise for posting a tweet saying Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn passed British secrets to a Czechoslovakian spy. However, as one of our recent blogs has suggested he isn’t the only one to have said something on a public forum he later regretted. Still, Must Do Better!

 

TOUGHEST START

Which Secretary of State has the toughest new gig - it's a close run contest? New Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley has not enjoyed the easiest of starts. Inheriting a row over "regulatory alignment", stalled power-sharing arrangements in Belfast and managing the DUP Ms Bradley has quite a challenge on her hands.

The Northern Ireland post has never been the easiest role in Government. Despite the success of the Good Friday agreement, tensions have persisted. In addition, she loses key SpAd Peter Cardwell to the Home Secretary at Easter. Ms Bradley could be forgiven for wishing all she had to worry about was an appropriate black dress for the BAFTAs.

Onto our second candidate. In January, David Gauke became the fifth Justice Secretary in three years. However, any hopes of a quiet introduction were quickly swept aside. Gauke, a solicitor by trade, was immediately faced with the decision over whether to pursue a judicial review to stop the release of sex attacker John Worboys. He declined this opportunity. In response, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, announced he would launch a legal challenge, as did some of Worboys victims. Expect this story to run and run and pressure to increase on Gauke to find a way to stop Worboys being released.

 

ONE TO WATCH

With many junior Tory MPs positioning themselves for what follows May, this is a crowded field. However, there is one clear choice; new Transport Minister Nusrat Ghani. Ms Ghani in answering Transport Questions became the first Muslim women Minister to speak at the Despatch Box. A notable first and one to watch.

 

CONCLUSION

Ministers; both new and old continue to grapple with ongoing political headaches such as pressure on living wages, a house building crisis, the NHS and of course Brexit. Theresa May clings on, Labour continue trying to keep their head down. UKIP have a new leader (again) and another new anti-Brexit party has been created.

This conclusion could give the indication that our politics is entirely bleak and predictable. But that would be wrong.

As we all battle through the daily negative political headlines, taking a longer view reminds us politics can be transformational and inspirational. As this photo of over 100 female parliamentarians from across the political spectrum joining together to celebrate the anniversary of female suffrage, not all politics is inconsequential. And as Polly MacKenzie has recently written in the Evening Standard, maybe it is time for us all to give up despair in politics and focus on the good we can do. Perhaps, that is something to reflect on.

 

CASE STUDY: TORIES AND SOCIAL INTERACTION

New party Chairman Brandon Lewis has also identified social media as a prominent battleground. He has written of how many Tory voters are too shy to fight Labour online. A coordinated social media strategy had seen many Tory MPs bombard social media with pro-environmental messages after Blue Planet 2.

It is not merely Blue Planet 2 which has been causing excitement on the Tory backbenches. According to an article from Iain Martin in The Times, Hollywood blockbuster Darkest Hour focusing on the life of Winston Churchill is leading Tory MPs to consider “action this day” and removing Theresa May.

Watch this space!

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New Year, new beginning? Well not in Scottish politics.

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New Year, new beginning? Well not in Scottish politics.

This article was first published on the 18th January by Pagoda Porter Novelli


Viewers of the Andrew Marr show will have seen the First Minister defiantly keep alive her hopes of calling a second referendum before the 2021 Scottish elections saying she will make her decision – based on her assessment of the Brexit outcome – in the autumn.

The most recent YouGov opinion poll (conducted between January 12 and 16) gives little succour to the First Minister’s hopes. It reveals that not only has support for independence fallen to 43%, with the No vote rising to 57%, but those who thought that a further poll should take place in the next five years has fallen to 36%.

And, more worryingly for the First Minister, the poll shows that at the 2021 Holyrood election, the SNP could lose 10 seats; even with a projected 10 seats for the Greens that total falls 2 votes short of a pro-independence majority.

The news for Labour is not much better. Support for Labour has fallen by 2% in both the constituency and regional list. And its new leader, Richard Leonard, has a negative rating of 15 when respondents were asked if he was doing well or badly. To be fair he was elected in early December and most folk pay little attention to politics over the festive period so he has little time to make his mark.

But Leonard’s perceived alignment with Jeremy Corbyn has also proven to be a negative factor. Corbyn has an approval rating of minus 3 compared to plus 20 just three months ago. Factors which may have affected Leonard and Labour’s popularity include Corbyn’s indecision on how the UK should leave the EU; Labour’s position on tax increases; the party’s ongoing promotion of federalism at a time when the electorate want to talk about services; and his loyalty to London giving the impression that Labour no longer has a distinctive Scottish voice and is back to being a “branch office”.

The Scottish Conservatives have marginally increased their support at Holyrood in the constituency and list vote. They may have benefitted from their position of not wishing to increase income tax, while all their opponents wish to agree some level of increase. The taxation issue will continue to be a dividing line right up to 2021.   Depending on the nature of Brexit and its effect on the Scottish Conservative Party, tax increases may well be at the top of the political agenda when the election rolls around. And if the Conservatives remain the only party wedded to leaving income tax levels where they are, they should benefit.

So what will 2018 bring? Ongoing criticism of the SNP’s failures in education, the NHS and Police Scotland in particular; a continued growth in support for the Scottish Conservatives and the ongoing marginalisation of Labour, at least in Scotland. Oh and no second Scottish referendum.

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Can May Survive Silly Season?

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Can May Survive Silly Season?

The Pimm’s is flowing. The sun is out. Wimbledon is on the telly. In Westminster circles, that can only mean one thing, ‘silly season’ has begun. But the serious story that may give rise to many as silly as #moggmentum is whether the Prime Minister will remain as leader of the Conservatives. We look at the conditions required for a challenge and the likely challengers. 

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