The client was vexed. “When is this review going to be published?” I aurally shrugged. The Government department had said by summer, which you could only assume was by recess. However, the Secretary of State had changed, the relevant minister had changed and there was a risk that recess could even be brought forward. So, it was anybody’s guess when this ground-breaking review would see the light of day.
Any why? Nothing to do with the workings of this this department or the competence of the ministers. It is all to do with the shambles around Brexit. This – to paraphrase Karl Marx – is a loop that is moving from tragedy to comedy and back again.
Theo Bertram, a former aid to Gordon Brown (remember him), wrote today in The Times about being in Number 10 when the Government was close to collapse. It reads like a The Thick of It script, with a little less swearing. The current shambles is at least as bad.
What does this mean for businesses trying to work with Government? Dealing with Departments can be confusing and frustrating at the best of times – and it gets worse the higher up the tree you go. I recall a client who was feeding into the then PR David Cameron (remember him). We held a call with his press team about what Cameron could “announce”. Nothing was sexy or immediate enough for them. Next thing we knew, he was in front of TV cameras announcing something that wasn’t ready. We found ourselves being inundated with press calls about a half-baked plan which never, in the end, took off.
The merry-go-round of ministers in nothing new. In certain areas – housing and energy come to mind – the only constant is change. I’ve seen ministers who barely knew their brief, messing up in parliament (at some cost to my client) and then being promoted. The schadenfreude when they were finally fired wasn’t worth the earlier pain.
Whatever you feel about Brexit, the anarchy in the UK around our relationship with Europe is increasing the one thing business hates the most – uncertainty.