General Election 2017: Why is it happening and what does it mean?

By : PPA Communications

Prime Minister Theresa May delivered a post-Easter shock on April 18 when she announced she would be calling for a General Election on June 8 - just two years after Britain last went to the polls. Owen Meredith, PPA's Director of External Affairs, explains why it's happening and where the battle lines will be drawn.

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Yes, you read that right – it does say 2017.

No-one was expecting it, the Prime Minister had denied it, but it seems the 21-point lead for the Conservatives in the latest opinion polls made the temptation too hard to resist. So in just six weeks’ time, voters across the UK will be asked to go to the polls for the third time in two years. But what does this mean for Brexit and Publishers?

I’m sure the last thing most of us wanted, or expected, was a period of instability brought on by a General Election. With Article 50 triggered and Brexit negotiations ongoing, we at PPA Towers had focussed our efforts on securing the industry's priorities in this key area, including responding to the Government’s Industrial Strategy Green papers – all of which now seems to have taken a bit of a back seat.

Be in no doubt, this election will be fought on Brexit. The Prime Minister herself has said this election is about delivering “strong and stable leadership in the national interest” that will strengthen her hand and allow her to get the job done in negotiating our departure from the EU. Theresa May has sighted opposition to Brexit from the SNP and the House of Lords (especially Lib Dem peers), and clearly concluded that having no electoral mandate of her own was making the job of negotiating Brexit harder.



But whatever the outcome, Article 50 has been triggered and there is no going back on the decision taken on June 23 last year. The debate for the next six weeks will be about what kind of Brexit the British public are ready to accept, and you can expect a lot more talk about “hard” or “soft” Brexit.

The Liberal Democrats will relish the opportunity to rise phoenix like from the ashes of their crushing defeat in 2015. As the only party demanding a second EU referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal, they will seek to appeal to the 48% who backed Remain in June – although their current poll rating of 12% suggests they will need to focus their efforts on remain voting areas where they have traditional support.

With Labour divided on the issues, it is anyone’s guess what their manifesto will commit the party to – they’ve already lost one MP who cited “irreconcilable difference” with Mr Corbyn as the reason he cannot stand on a Labour ticket in June.

But could there be other nuggets? An election releases all the parties from the commitments of their 2015 manifestos. With the three main UK parties all having new leadership, there will be a chance to put their own stamp on the domestic agenda. Corbyn will seek to crystallise his anti-austerity message in a solid set of manifesto commitments building on his recent announcements of a £10 minimum wage, a £500bn investment fund, VAT on private education, and a 50p top rate of tax.

We’ve also been hearing a lot lately from Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson on press regulation and Leveson, so we will be keeping an eye out for any policies seeking to undermine a free press that make their way into Labour’s manifesto.



George Freeman MP, Theresa May’s policy chief, will have been working in the bunker of Number 10 for weeks on a manifesto for this election. The question will be how brave Theresa May wants to be, and whether she will seek a broader mandate for the domestic agenda she began to set out during her leadership campaign, or whether she sticks to a shorter dossier simply seeking a parliamentary mandate to deliver the referendum mandate of June 23 that landed her the top job.

Being able to ditch David Cameron and George Osborne’s 2015 plans could free the Chancellor to make those National Insurance changes he backed away from in the spring Budget, abandon the pensions triple lock he has said is unaffordable, or be bolder on deficit reduction. There’s a lot to look out for.

The SNP, a driving force behind the early poll according to the PM, will seek to make the election a mini-referendum on “Tory hard Brexit” and an independent Scotland. Expect a manifesto commitment to seek a special deal for Scotland with the EU and an affirmation of that promise to hold IndyRef2 on Scotland’s future within the UK.

By way of a recap, in the 2015 General Election, the PPA set out our priorities for this parliament under the banner of #PlatformsForProsperity, urging the government to back publishers who deliver platforms for growth, talent, innovation, global trade, and literacy.

Although the political landscape has changed, our basic asks of government remain the same:

GROWTH

Supporting growth in the creative economy by backing copyright and delivering stability as we leave the EU

TALENT

Supporting new talent by helping publishers make the most of the apprenticeship levy to train the next generation

INNOVATION

Supporting innovation with a tax regime that reflects the fast pace of change in publishing platforms

GLOBAL TRADE

Supporting publishers to trade globally with assistance to break into new markets, building on our existing strengths

LITERACY

Supporting literacy among young readers by cutting VAT to zero on digital publications

All the while the day job continues, fighting to get a manageable framework for implementing new data protection rules under GDPR, campaigning to deliver VAT reform on digital publications, and assessing our priorities for Brexit.

Look out for further updates as the situation evolves and if you have any questions, get in touch.


Owen Meredith
Director of External Affairs
owen.meredith@ppa.co.uk
0207 400 7500

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