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Zeno London
| 21ST OCT 2022

The Week That Was: UK Political Special

The UK is home to one of the oldest parliamentary democracies on the planet. Established in 1215 through the Magna Carta, the UK is viewed globally as a beacon of democracy. Institutions such as the Bank of England and the Office for Budget Responsibility are championed across the globe, people consider them best in class at delivering financial stability and holding politicians to account.

It would be easy to forget this as we look at the current political morass. Since the 2016 Brexit vote, British politics has appeared to be on a turbo-charged mission of self-flagellation, leaving economic uncertainty and rising public anger in its wake.

The UK is a traditional nation at heart, it follows history and legacy, more than movements and moments, but this week could be the start of a fundamental reset. It seems highly unlikely that the Government will be able to crawl towards a General Election that is still two years away. The public and media opinion point towards a clamour for a new political direction, the question is no one is quite sure which direction we will be going.

What happened this week?

After serving just 44 days in office, yesterday Prime Minister Liz Truss resigned. In a remarkable turn of events, Truss will become the shortest serving PM in the UK’s long history.

Without doubt she arrived in office at a time of "great economic and international instability", the problem was that she made this instability worse not better. Her premiership and resignation have sent shockwaves through the Conservative party, caused business uproar, consumer financial pain and have led to fundamental questions on the democratic mandate the Government currently holds.

What happens next?

A new Conservative leader and Prime Minister will be in place by Friday 28th October. It is a seriously quick process, with candidates wanting to enter the race needing the backing of over 100 MPs by this Monday and Conservative Party members having their say in an online vote until 11am on Friday 28th with the official result announced later that afternoon. The process could be even quicker if Conservative MPs coalesce around a single candidate, with the victor handed the keys to Number 10 as soon as next Monday night.

Leader of the Opposition, Sir Kier Starmer has called for an immediate General Election saying that there “has to be more than a revolving door of chaos” and called for “a stop to the experiments at the top of the party.” His point has been picked up by business leaders across the UK who have called for “enough of the circus”.

Who’s in the running?

The battle to reach 100 MP nominations is likely to be fought by three candidates – Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt and Boris Johnson who is dialling in from his cruise in the Caribbean.

The Guido Fawkes website currently has Boris out in front with over 50 MP nominations, this should be taken with a pinch of salt, with many political commentators suggesting that he has pushed hard early, but that he is unlikely to have the support of 100 MPs in Parliament….stranger things have happened.

The bookies all have Rishi as the favourite to win the race, the question will be whether he can encourage Penny to step aside with the promise of a plum Cabinet job and the prospect of a more united Conservative party.

What does it mean for the media landscape?

The UK media next week and beyond will continue to be dominated by the current political drama. For journalists at both red tops and broadsheet this is their moment to gain an exclusive, publish some gossip or set public opinion on the direction the country should go.

The battle for brands is now on reputation, next week we will see a rise in the number of prominent CEOs of businesses coming out on the airwaves to call for serious heads and serious focus on returning the UK economy to growth. The reputation for the Government may be in tatters, but there is an opportunity for the reputation of brands and businesses to grow in this vacuum. It is time for brands to propose solutions, to champion the consumer and to show there is a positive way out of the current mess – this is the new brand battleground.