This Is Not The Political Silly Season

Posted by: on Jul 18, 2017 | No Comments

With Parliament due to rise shortly for the Summer Recess, it is often thought that politics ‘goes quiet’ until early September. With a lack of real debate and issues to consider, the media has to find other, less important, things to talk about. This makes it the ‘Silly Season’. But this summer especially, is not the ‘Silly Season’ and anyone who fails to pay proper attention will miss consideration of issues of real and immediate importance.Stories that circulate during the Summer months are often considered less worthy than at other times during the year so they should be taken less seriously. This is partly down to Parliament not sitting but also people, not least politicians, taking holiday and simply being away.

This, however, ignores the challenges facing government and is also a very pre-social media, pre-digital, twentieth century attitude. Not being at home, or away from London, is no longer a block on proper stories developing.

So what are we likely to see this Summer that could be so important?

  • Brexit – we are entering the ‘serious phase’ of Brexit negotiations. David Davis is now calling for everyone to ‘get down to business’ in an attempt to show that he is in charge of proceedings. That does though ignore the fact that the UK government’s position has been a prime cause of the sluggish in discussions so far.

Looking at the timetable and terms of reference for the Article 50 negotiations, meetings could take place at the end of August so work will be required during August. Despite earlier calls for the negotiations not to be conducted through the media, that has already happened and will continue to happen. So August could be a busy month.

  • The revenge of the hard Brexiteers – whilst many, including senior Conservative backbenchers, have interpreted the General Election result as an endorsement of ‘soft Brexit’, they have not contended with the vociferous and committed nature of the ‘hard Brexiteers’. As Brexit business is got down to, so the ‘hard Brexiteers’ will re-emerge and put down their markers. They have been quiet in the immediate post-election period but do not expect that to continue over the Summer.
  • Tory leadership challenge – this won’t happen during the Summer but candidates will be put up and knocked down over the Summer. The ‘get Hammond’ brigade have been out in force over the past three days and this will continue. Expect Boris’s profile to come up again and for David Davis to demonstrate how tough he is being in negotiations. One or two other names will start to bubble up as well. All this is line with talk that has already been going on amongst Tory MPs.

It will be during the summer and into early September when Mrs May’s fate as leader will be decided with a challenge most likely post party conferences. So Mrs May needs to resume some level of authority over the Summer. However, the very fact that she is having to remind colleagues that private discussions need to be kept private is a damning indictment of her current lack of authority and the low starting point for the rebuilding process.

  • Government – there may be some announcements but given that there haven’t been that many when Parliament was sitting, Government will likely to quiet. That does not though stop the potential leadership challengers from raising their profile and showing that they have a real plan for the future and for Brexit.
  • The Labour Party – at least there is no Labour leadership campaign to content with this summer! But if the Party is seriously in permanent campaign mode then it has to maintain the momentum over the Summer. So Corbyn and other members of the Shadow Cabinet will continue to be active over the Summer.It is an approach that that served them well so far so it will continue. New issues and lines of attack will come up.

So far from the Summer being the political ‘silly season’ it will be critical to pay attention to what happens this year. Your promised ‘digital detox’ sitting on a beach will have to wait. Instead, look forward to checking Twitter, news sites and your digital subscriptions.

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