What does a hung parliament mean for charities?

As another election has confounded expectations, we find ourselves in a hung parliament. Could this provide opportunities for charities to be influential, and what does it mean for a new legislative programme?

Other organisations such as the Institute for Government and the Hansard Society have looked at what will happen procedurally, but we’ve had a few early thoughts about what it might mean for charities and their influencing work.

The Conservatives are continuing in government

Theresa May has already been to the palace and informed the Queen that she intends to form a new government to be supported by the Democratic Unionist Party. This would still mean a smaller working majority than prior to the election.

There will be questions about how durable such a government is likely to be, especially in light of reported delays to the Queen’s speech, which may mean that broader ad hoc deals are needed to get individual pieces of legislation through.

The need to avoid trouble is likely to mean that controversial manifesto proposals are set aside, but we can expect the broad thrust of the new government’s agenda to be based on the Conservative manifesto.

Compromises will need to be made

With there being such a small margin of error for the new government, it is inevitable that at times they will have to compromise with their own backbenchers and possibly other parties – this will create extra space for charities to influence legislation and the government’s broader direction.

Working with Conservative backbenchers who are prepared to speak against the government will be particularly helpful, but the government may also have to do deals with other parties so charities should make sure they are working with MPs across the house.

But votes might be harder to win

However, the precariousness of this arrangement might see those on the Conservative side become reluctant to actually vote down their government, particularly if they fear it could lead to the fall of the government and another election.

We saw that with a narrow majority since 2015, Conservative backbenchers were reluctant to vote against their government, and I wouldn’t expect that to change.

Everyone needs to learn about Northern Ireland

Just as English charities found themselves having to think about the policy positions and motivations of the SNP when it came to influencing votes in parliament, so we’ll now need to familiarise ourselves with the DUP and understand what opportunities and challenges this might create for influencing policy.

The vulnerability of the government’s majority will therefore mean that charities will need to stay on top of the politics of coalition-building if they want to influence effectively.

We’ll be providing some more analysis of what the result might mean in the next few days and week. (And with now being the perfect time to refresh your parliamentary knowledge and influencing skills, we will also be running a half day course on influencing the House of Lords on 23rd June, and a one day course on influencing parliament on Monday 3 July.)

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Chris is NCVO’s public affairs manager, focusing on parliamentary work. He started his career working for several MPs in Parliament, and has also worked in public affairs and policy roles for the Federation of Small Businesses.

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