Election 2015: The 10 things you need to know about working with the Coalition in the run up to the election and beyond

Recently, the NCVO public affairs consultancy team hosted a breakfast briefing on working with the Coalition in the run up to the next election. Speakers included James O’Shaughnessy, the former Head of Policy at Number 10, Akash Paun from the Institute for Government and Rob Burley, Head of Public Affairs at Action on Hearing Loss.

The session pulled out the challenges and opportunities posed by working with a coalition government, the likely changes we will see as we approach the election and effective strategies for influencing. There were a number of insightful points:

  1. The coalition government continues to be dominated by the ‘sextet’ of decision makers – Cameron, Osborne, Clegg, Alexander, Letwin and Laws.
  2. Sometimes having two philosophies in a department can be useful in providing different access points.
  3. The Big Society is still a “guiding principle” for Cameron despite being a much derided term.
  4. The next two years are likely to be categorised by a loss of momentum and a shift to party policy development.
  5. The risk of the coalition collapsing before May 2015 is under-appreciated.
  6. There’s a sweet spot for influencing the parties’ policies in the run-up to the election, and it lies somewhere between now and a year ahead of the poll date.
  7. Political parties are already gearing up for the election. Jon Cruddas, David Laws and Oliver Letwin are the leads from each party. The Number 10 Policy Unit is being re-engineered to be more political, watch out for the appointment of a new Head of Policy that will be key to the Tory operation.
  8. All three parties will also be looking to sources outside of the party for ideas generation, so keep an eye on groups such as the IPPR, which will feed into Labour’s policy review, for example.
  9. The manifestos will be short and top line but may well contain two types of commitment – the must-haves and the nice-to-haves. Each party (but especially the Liberal Democrats) will engage in scenario planning to see how commitments might stand up in any coalition negotiations.
  10. Campaigners looking to influence the next election should always consider how their policy asks will sit with the key sections of the electorate that the main parties are pitching to such as the ‘strivers’ or the ‘squeezed middle’.

This event was organised by the NCVO public affairs consultancy team as part of a series aimed at helping our members to lobby and influence in the run up the next election.

Find out more about our election work and public affairs consultancy service.

The next Breakfast Briefing will be on Tuesday 21 May and will focus on how campaigners can make the most of Lobbying the Lords – details will be sent out soon.

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