Whilst the possibilities and timing of a potential Labour government remain uncertain, attendance at their party conference shows that the chances are being taken seriously. But what would it really mean for public affairs?
It was not too long ago that no-one was really taking the chance of a Labour government, especially one led by Jeremy Corbyn, seriously. But the General Election result, the popularity of the Labour manifesto and Corbyn’s own improved performance have all shifted the dial. Add to that the confusion of Brexit and the constant Cabinet in-fighting then you have a recipe for a potential Labour government.
Labour too is planning. Some may have scoffed at McDonnell’s talk of ‘war-gaming’ but it is difficult to say that they are not right to plan for what could happen. The role of Sir Bob Kerslake, the former head of the civil service, could also be critical. He has already undertaken a review of the Treasury for the party and is now, along with other ex-officials, helping prepare the potential government for entering office. This is the sort of attention to detail that makes Labour look serious and may offer some reassurance to business and the markets.
So what would a Labour government mean for public affairs?
Navigating Labour, its structure, policy groups etc is essential. The party’s processes may be revised over the coming months so effort needs to go into following these moves.
Labour will want to move quickly and effect change soon after coming into government. Whilst they will plan for the long-term, they will also appreciate the need to be seen to be different. That is not just part of the appeal but also an appreciation that they may only get one chance to secure real change. Even the great reforming post-war Attlee government only last one term and a little bit, 1945-51! And Corbyn and his allies believe that Blair, amongst the list of faults they would attribute to him, was not radical enough especially immediately after 1997.
So a Labour government will be all about impact and that is what public affairs should prepare for.