Public Affairs & Government Relations

FTI Consulting Public Affairs Christmas Snapshot 2021

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Analysis and predictions from FTI Consulting’s UK Public Affairs Team

Last year’s roundup, produced under lockdown before Christmas 2020, had an underlying question running through it: how quickly will things return to “normal”?

Hindsight – 20:21 vision – tells us that it was the wrong question. After a second year dominated – in social policy, economic considerations, political fortunes, everything – by Covid, the right question to many of us now seems to be: will we return to “normal” again?

A year ago we predicted that Boris Johnson’s future depends upon perceptions about the handling of the pandemic, as does that of his government. We would not have guessed that this question would still be an open one as 2021 draws to a close.

Beneath that backdrop, 2021 has been the ultimate mixed bag of political events. A year of by-elections and upsets, rampant government spending, jousting and bickering with neighbours and allies, frequently changing government advice and regular state intervention in every aspect of life has seen the need for public affairs counsel grow to the highest point we have ever seen – and one prediction for 2022 we will not shy away from is that this trend will only grow in the months to come.

Here are some broad themes to bear in mind:

Debt matters: at some point, inflation will bite. It has to. As reported this morning, in November it hit 5.1% – double the target and a 10-year high. This will change the perspective of businesses, and also voters, with regard to the economic and political landscape. The Chancellor has made it clear that he wishes to ensure that taxes will be falling rather than rising before the next General Election; a tight timetable and economic headwinds make that a challenging ambition, even before further potential economic hits from new variants and their consequences are considered. Government has spent in peacetime in a fashion more accustomed to wartime. Broadly speaking, the markets understand this – but they do so, in part, on the basis that wars end.

Borderlands are a focus: whether it be on the EU’s eastern flank, where Hungary and Poland become ever-more robust in their positions on migration, or the Ulster / Irish border, where the Prime Minister’s assurances have not been forgotten, the whole continent of Europe sees a focus on borders unimaginable only a few years ago. A populist candidate for the Presidency in France is realigning the political centre ground on this issue as I write, and the effect of that change in the engine room of the EU is likely to be felt whatever comes of his eccentric campaign. Our ability to travel remains stymied, wreaking havoc upon leisure and tourism as well as slowing broader economic activity as business activity and investments are postponed. Self-sufficiency, once a near-absurdity of a proposition in a frictionless, just-in-time global economy, is discussed in sector after sector. Borders will play a part in 2022 in a way not seen in Europe for a generation.

Labour resurgence – or not? With all the travails faced by the government, with some by-elections lost and others just scraped through, if Sir Keir Starmer cannot make a real breakthrough in the polls, even the Labour Party – notably less ruthless with leaders than their Tory opponents in the past – may ask itself: if not now, when? 2022 will decide whether Starmer is merely a caretaker leader for the transition to a newly confident and successful opposition frontbench, or the long-term leader of a credible government-in-waiting himself.

We hope that you enjoy our snapshots. Whatever 2022 may hold for you and yours, we wish you as restful a break as can be had in these days of déjà vu unpleasantness – and, whatever next year has in store, once again we stand ready to help meet your public affairs needs throughout the year to come.

 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals.

©2021 FTI Consulting, Inc. All rights reserved. www.fticonsulting.com

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