The inside track: June 2019

Our latest update on what’s going on in Westminster that might impact charities, including the Conservative leadership election, what might be happening in parliament before recess, and whether parliament can (and will) stop a no-deal Brexit.

Parliament

Lords debate on social value and the civil society strategy

In recent weeks the House of Lords has discussed the use of social value in public procurement in relation to the civil society strategy, after former Mitie CEO Baroness McGregor-Smith secured a debate. There was support across parties for doing more to embed social value within public procurement, and a number of peers suggested ways this could be strengthened.

Parliament before the summer recess

With little currently happening in parliament there has been some speculation about how the new Conservative leader might approach parliament if as expected they are appointed before summer recess. Brigid Fowler from the Hansard Society has set out how they could approach things, and other things to look out for in parliament over the next month.

People news

The Conservative leadership election has kicked off in earnest this week, with Theresa May standing down last week. She will remain as prime minister until a successor is chosen. Boris Johnson won the first ballot of Conservative MPs, and even if he just retains his 114 votes he is guaranteed a place in the final two, who will be the subject of a ballot of all Conservative members. Andrea Leadsom, Mark Harper, and Esther McVey were knocked out after failing to secure the required 16 votes, while Matt Hancock has also now pulled out of the contest. If, as looks likely, Mr Johnson does make the final two, he is expected to be favourite to win, whoever the other candidate is.

Other leadership elections

Theresa May was not the only leader to step down following the European elections. Sir Vince Cable stepped down as Liberal Democrat leader, and will be replaced by either Jo Swinson or Sir Ed Davey.

UKIP will also elect a new leader, with Gerard Batten standing down, having failed to win any seats in the European Parliament.

All change for Change UK

Change UK leader Heidi Allen not only relinquished the leadership, but left the party completely, alongside 5 other MPs (one of whom, Chuka Umunna, how now joined the Liberal Democrats), after the party failed to secure any MEPs. Anna Soubry has assumed the leadership. The party is also changing its name to the Independent Group for Change in the face of a potential legal challenge by Change.org.

Other leadership news

NCVO has been running its own leadership contest and yesterday it was announced that our current director of public policy and volunteering, Karl Wilding, has been appointed as our new chief executive. He will take over from Sir Stuart Etherington in mid-September.

Peterborough by-election

Labour held on to the seat vacated by Fiona Onasanya, with Lisa Forbes becoming the new MP. She held off a strong challenge by the Brexit Party, who pushed the Conservatives (who held the seat prior to 2017) in third place.

Another recall process is currently taking place in Brecon and Radnorshire over Conservative MP Chris Davies. The deadline to sign is next Thursday, and if 10% of the electorate (5,303) sign, a by-election will be triggered.

Will parliament stop no-deal?

With it looking more and more likely that the UK will have a prime minister who is prepared to leave the EU without a deal, attention has again been placed on whether parliament can do anything to stop it.

The House of Commons this week rejected a Labour opposition motion to take control of the business with a view to passing something that would prevent a no-deal Brexit, with several Labour MPs voting against, and a slightly larger number abstaining.

This highlighted the particular problem facing parliamentarians who want to prevent no-deal. The Institute for Government has written about the procedural barriers, despite the speaker’s support for providing that opportunity. However, as this week’s vote showed, voting to prevent no-deal in the abstract is one thing, but supporting a specific mechanism that would prevent it will inevitably be dependent on the politics of doing so. In particular, revoking Article 50 is likely to be a step too far for Labour MPs who are concerned about being seen to block Brexit.

It may be that a new prime minister will actively seek a mandate from the country to pursue a no-deal Brexit in any case, but if not it remains unclear if parliament can, or will, block it. So again, charities would be advised to make sure they have plans in place if we do leave without a deal on 31 October.

NCVO Campaigning Conference

There are only two weeks left to secure an early bird discount for our annual Campaigning Conference in September. Our keynote speaker will be Sue Baker, global director of Time to Change, and we’ve also announced details of workshops.

NCVO can help you to navigate Westminster and Whitehall

Make sure your voice is heard by those making the decisions. We can provide a range of advice, support and training, contact chris.walker@ncvo.org.uk for details.

If you’re looking for campaigning training, our new training website now has all of our courses in one place.

Our next Influencing Parliament course will be on 8 July. As Brexit continues to limit parliamentary and government time for other matters, it’s even more important that you make effective use of the tactics available to influence through parliament.

Brexit updates

We’ve produced a factsheet for charities to help them prepare for the impact of Brexit.

If you want to keep in touch with the latest Brexit news, it’s also worth following these:

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Chris Walker Chris is a Senior External Relations Officer at NCVO, 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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