The past month has inevitably been dominated by the Prime Minister’s announcement of a General Election to take place on 8 June.
The announcement was very much unexpected, with ministers said to have been taken by surprise when informed by Theresa May moments before publicly calling the election on the steps of Downing Street. The Prime Minister had repeatedly insisted – despite the urgings of numerous senior figures in the Conservative Party – that there would be no election. However, the publication of polling numbers showing Labour to be at a record disadvantage to the Conservatives appears to have convinced Mrs May to reverse her position in the hope that an early ballot will secure an increased Conservative majority, in turn giving her a mandate for her efforts in upcoming Brexit negotiations.
The announcement of the election has resulted in the dissolution of Parliament, with MPs returning to their constituencies to campaign. Meanwhile, the civil service will go into purdah ahead of polling day – in essence a period during which no policies will be enacted or taken forward, nor government announcements made that might influence the outcome of the election.
The decision to call an early election was accepted by the other major political parties, all of which voted with the Government to overturn the Fixed Parliaments Act that would have prevented a further vote until 2020. With campaigning fully underway, the Conservatives have repeatedly questioned Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s fitness to lead, with Mr Corbyn facing renewed questioning over Labour’s position on retaining the nuclear deterrent.
For their part, Labour have thus far focused on domestic policy and public services, with an announcement it would introduce 10,000 new police officers by repealing planned cuts to capital gains taxes.
The political approach
Inevitably the Federation’s parliamentary activity has been impacted over the past month by Parliament rising for its annual Easter recess, following which the Prime Minister unexpectedly announced plans for the General Election.
The consequence of the election announcement is that Parliament has been focused on tying up outstanding business, with MPs returning to their constituencies and civil service preparing for the purdah period.
As a result, the Federation has had to postpone planned meeting with the likes of former Defence Minister Kevan Jones MP.
We will be revisiting all parliamentary contacts and supporters following the General Election; in addition to securing opportunities to brief newly elected MPs of relevance to the MDP.
The General Election has resulted in the MoD indicated that the Minister is unlikely to be able to attend conference due to possible changes in the Department’s ministerial team and the election taking place so close to the conference. We are in touch with the Minister’s office to assess whether any attendance would be possible.
With the civil service in purdah until after the election, the Federation will be preparing briefing materials to be used after 8 June. Our efforts will be focused on the following:
· Retain contact regarding ministerial attendance at the Federation’s annual conference
· Briefing newly elected MPs
· Reconnected with re-elected MP supporters and other significant stakeholders, including the Clerk and members of the Defence Select Committee
Our efforts in the past month have focused on briefing journalists on the role of the MDP ahead of the Federation’s annual conference when we will be making the National Chairman’s keynote speech available to national defence, political and home affairs correspondents.
The Federation also sent a letter from Eamon Keating to the ‘i’ newspaper in response to an article on the potential for the State Pension Age to be increased (with the Government’s pensions advisor suggesting the population was not ready for any such move). The letter highlighted the possible impact on MDP officers as a consequence of existing but undesirable pension arrangements. While the letter was not published, with the newspaper focusing its letters page entirely on Brexit and the announcement of the General Election, the submission is important in retaining the national media’s attention on the pensions issue – which we will be raising again with parliamentarians following the election.
We have also briefed a number of senior correspondents – including the crime and home affairs correspondents at The Times and Evening Standard – on the role of the MDP, specifically with regards to supporting Home Office constabularies in the event of a major incident. This followed widespread media coverage of efforts to increase national armed policing capacity.
We will be preparing keynote speeches and supportive media materials over the next month; in addition to alerting senior media contacts to the timing of the Federation’s annual conference.
As with previous years, our intention is to make the National Chairman’s keynote speech available to journalists in order to secure media coverage that both secures public support and supports ongoing parliamentary engagement.
In the context of the General Election, we would like to alert members to the fact they may receive direct contact from parliamentary candidates and the supporters. This might include so-called ‘doorstepping’, where candidates will attempt to speak to members of the public in their homes.
We would remind members that any contact with parliamentary candidates could be subject to MDP regulations.