Looking beyond the Brexit blind spot

Looking beyond the Brexit blind spot

Remember life before Brexit? It takes quite a bit of effort to recall, but there was a time when public debate wasn’t dominated by our relationship with the EU.

In the speech marking his 2015 election victory, David Cameron spoke, amongst other things, about tax, apprenticeships, improving employee training and rebalancing the economy. Towards the end, an afterthought: ‘And yes, we will deliver that in-out referendum on our future in Europe.”

Brexit has dominated public debate since the June 2016 referendum

We’ve been consumed by Brexit – understandably so – but as we move closer to an exit date it still feels like the only issue anyone cares about. While politicians attempt to push the process on, businesses are urged to get ready for the big date. Preparing for Brexit is clearly a wise move, as Britain’s relationship with the rest of the world will have a fundamental impact on organisations for many years to come. But now is also the time to start thinking about what else may be just around the corner.

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As the general election approaches, other issues will return to the spotlight

Think about all the corporate issues that have gone largely unnoticed as the debate about the EU has raged on: the legislation that hasn’t passed, the bad business behaviour that hasn’t made it to the front pages. All that is about to change in the next month or so, as the general election approaches and the spotlight starts to move back onto issues beyond Brexit.

The general election is a time when the political parties reveal all the things they want to talk about; crucially, these are issues that they believe are important to the general public. We’re about to hear an awful lot on executive remuneration, corporate behaviour, fair pay, the impact of technology on employees, and much more. None of this should be surprising; it’s actually quietly been the direction of travel for some time.

Businesses can’t ignore shifting attitudes towards the private sector

There’s been a change in the way that politicians view the private sector that is a long way from the relatively benign environment of the previous twenty years – and that goes for both the Labour and Conservative parties. When Theresa May became Prime Minister, she made it clear that corporate behaviour was at the top of her list of priorities. Boris Johnson reportedly had a fairly catchy four-letter description for his approach to business, and his government is expected to tread a more interventionist path. Under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is promising to transform the way the economy operates, and none of his most likely successors will change that script too much.

This shift in attitude isn’t just among politicians: a recent YouGov poll showed that even among people who consider themselves ‘right-wing’ 47% support rail nationalisation, 44% support utilities nationalisation and 57% want a government that is significantly interventionist in the economy.

The months ahead should be used for proactive reputation management

For businesses, the next few months offer an unmissable opportunity: a chance to look at your corporate reputation, and consider how well it might stand up to increased scrutiny. It’s also a time to work out how you can take a lead and stand out from the crowd. It’s rare to be able to see where public debate is heading while also having a few months to prepare for it. Organisations would be wise to take advantage of that moment.

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Sean Kemp

Director

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