The Nuclear Option
The Summer Recess has faded into distant memory and the 2016/17 parliamentary session has well and truly commenced. Following the Brexit vote and the subsequent political upheaval that’s ensued, it promises to be the most unpredictable year for many a decade. A perfect illustration of that is Hinkley Point.
As one of the big three infrastructure projects requiring Government attention (HS2 and Airport Expansion being the others), the debate on its merits, or otherwise, are sufficiently well-rehearsed to not require repetition here. The decision to postpone…and then proceed with it is, in itself, interesting politically. It’s a decision which understandably has considerable importance to our energy sector. Of more significance to Westminster Watchers is the meaning behind the decision making process. The “Pause and Reflect” model has been uncharitably compared in some quarters to Andrew Lansley’s approach to getting the Health & Social Care Act through the Commons. This is perhaps unfair. What it is though is unquestionably a new style of governance. One where evidence-based decisions are taken at a time and pace Number 10 determines.
Where did it leave us…? Well, the obvious conclusion is it represented a very public backing for the nuclear sector. However, it also shows the Government is happy to put up seriously sizeable chunks of public money for major infrastructure projects. In the context of the Chancellor implying we may see a resetting of fiscal rules, there’s much for local authorities and others to perhaps ponder as we move towards the Autumn Statement. Public submissions should be with HMT by October 7.
Beside The Seaside
Long gone are the times when Labour and Conservative MPs could soak up some autumn sun at one of our coastal towns whilst attending party conference. This year it’s Liverpool and Birmingham respectively that will host the Government and the Official Opposition. The Liberal Democrats and UKIP have gone for more traditional venues though and both had plenty to interest observers beyond a stroll along the promenade.
The UKIP Conference saw Nigel Farage formally replaced as leader by Diane James. Love him or hate him (and plenty do both), Nigel Farage has undeniably made his mark on modern British politics. He has recognition well beyond even most cabinet ministers and will be a tough act to follow for the currently less known Diane James. Where she takes the party from here will be interesting to watch.
As for the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron made claim to being the longest serving leader of a major political party. I hope nobody tells Howling Laud Hope! Perhaps more noteworthy was the crux of the speech he gave. Although references were made to the Liberal Democrats being the true free market party, most observers considered it pitched squarely at disaffected Blairites and moderate Labour supporters perhaps questioning if Corbynism is the right way forward. The Liberal Democrats have enjoyed some success in recent by-elections and it will be interesting to see if this contribution can help build on that.
The Conservative & Labour Party Conferences will be covered next time around.
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