The first 100 days... Trident, Hinkley & Heathrow
Later this week Theresa May will mark her first 100 days as Prime Minister and whilst not on the same scale of JFK’s first three months (creating the Peace Corps, dealing with the Bay of Pigs fiasco, announcing the aim of getting a man on the moon and wrestling with Khrushchev) the opinion polls would suggest the country strongly approves of the approach and style May has shown so far.
Following a (thankfully) truncated leadership election, Theresa’s election gave the country some much needed stability after a nasty and divisive referendum. The relative peace of August and September afforded the new government time and space to settle in and start addressing some of the overflowing and challenging ministerial ‘in trays’.
One of Mrs May’s first acts as Prime Minister in the House of Commons was to reconfirm the government’s commitment to renewing Trident; Hinkley soon followed with Heathrow due to be given the green light next week, more of which later. Grammar school expansion and a timetable for the EU divorce talks were also announced. It hasn’t been all plain sailing though, with the tumbling pound and the debate over the approach to Brexit causing significant tensions.
Inevitably, it is Brexit that has caused the most turbulence and tension within the new government. After a rare misreading of the parliamentary mood, the government needs to unpick its earlier muddled approach to the role it would like Parliament to play in scrutinising and debating the approach to Brexit and allow it a greater role. Theresa will not have been impressed with the blue-on-blue briefings and cabinet leaks and her approach to the vexed question of Heathrow suggests a more finessed approach. Suspending collective responsibility for a brief period should help to ensure that resignations are kept to a minimum, with the exception of Zac Goldsmith almost inevitably due to cause a by-election in Richmond Park. If the government is really bold, expect both Heathrow and Gatwick to be given the nod with some good news for Birmingham too.
The Autumn Statement due on the 23rd of November will help give a clearer indication of the government’s priorities and approach. I expect there will be significant announcements on other infrastructure priorities, a more interventionist approach in areas such as housing, as well as more flesh on the bones regarding the government’s economic priorities for the Brexit negotiations.
Theresa's first hundred days shows a sharp move away from Cameron's short termist 'government by press release', a willingness to carefully consider and then seek to address some of the deeper rooted and structural challenges this country faces. There are also some warning signs of a Cabinet still needing better discipline, a slightly authoritarian approach to Parliament which will come unstuck regardless what size your majority and some mixed messaging from the No 10 communications office. Taken in perspective though, given the scale of her political inheritance and the slimness of her majority, I think it's quite an impressive start.
This article was written by Frank Browne a former leader of Wokingham Borough Council and a member of our non-Executive board.