Dear Members and Friends,
Alongside the small matter of a snap election being called (more on that later) we enjoyed a trio of excellent D Group events. Tuesday saw the Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshall Sir Stuart Peach deliver a comprehensive, realistic and highly encouraging take on the readiness of UK forces to deal with a range of threats. Wednesday saw Tom Samson, CEO of the vitally important NuGen’s Moorside nuclear project in Cumbria which is scheduled to provide 7% of UK baseload generating capacity, give an upbeat assessment of its progress against a background of a major shareholder going through some tough restructuring. On Thursday we heard Penny Mordaunt, Minister of State for Work and Pensions, remind us, amidst all the noise of Brexit and imminent elections, of some ground-breaking cross-departmental initiatives in focusing attention on delivering opportunities for the UK’s disabled. A sector whose ‘Purple Pound” is worth £240bn.
Phil Dowrick represented our Smart and Future Cities Working Group at the 5th Smart Cities and Smart Grids conference in Istanbul. Key outputs from the international conference were agreement on the role that the UK can play as independent (i.e. not attached to SOEs) advisors and suppliers in supporting indigenous capacity to deliver healthy, wealthy and liveable cities. Not only from the UK, speakers included subject experts from the US, France, Germany, Sweden, India, Jordan, Israel and Poland. An unexpected lesson was the common voltage problems being experienced in the UK and many European countries, of OVER generation of electricity that renewable energy sources are adding during sunny weekend afternoons and windy nights. #ukinturkey
The most immediate impact of the snap election was that the PM chose the same day, June 8, as our annual reception on the House of Lords terrace. Very inconsiderate >_<* . We will have to postpone as Westminster will be empty, Ministers distracted (and possibly not ministers after June 8) and many of you will have returned home to vote, watch the telly and make a long night of it. We will reschedule shortly with an Autumn date. Further collateral damage, unsurprisingly, has been a clutch of cancelled ministerial attendances at Grafton Street as they, too, focus 100% on re-election. Inevitably the election will impact engagement with business. To be frank, it’s not been that great since the referendum as, understandably, the all-embracing event of Brexit has swamped much of Whitehall. But it was beginning to loosen up and, as this week’s D Group CEO breakfast reflected, the election will cause the pause button to be hit. Equally, as Lady Judge’s article in the FT yesterday underlined, the PM’s decision could well make for a more engaged interaction between business and HMG than has been possible in the last few months.
I also draw your attention to Tom Cargill’s piece for our associated research group, The British Foreign Policy Group, calling for Foreign Policy to receive a far fuller airing in the election debate than in recent years .
The coming week sees events on Cyber, Gas’s contribution to UK energy policy and the views of the Danish Ambassador on recent and forthcoming developments in the UK.
A very good weekend to you all,
Peter O'Kane - Executive Chairman, Strategy International