Hung Parliament: how the next 10 days could pan out

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“The day after the General Election can be very intense for public affairs practitioners”.

Well I said it, so here’s what I can do to help. This is what we know about how the next 10 days will pan out with further information on the coming months.

Friday 9 June: negotiations to form a government.

“Caretaker principle” gives Theresa May the opportunity to try and form a government first. That may be as a minority with help from other parties as needed known as a “supply and confidence” arrangement, or a formal coalition, most likely with the DUP.

Corbyn can simultaneously also negotiate with parties to see if he can form a government.

The threshold both parties will need to meet is 326 to stand a chance of winning a vote in the Commons.

There are still four seats to be announced at time of writing (08:28) but maths right now:

  • Conservative minority government with formal DUP support. At time of writing this would deliver 325 votes (315 Conservative, 10 DUP).
  • Labour minority government difficult. Even with Labour (261) working with the SNP (35) they’ll need up to a score more votes, which means wooing at least the Lib Dem (12) or DUP block (10), plus keeping Plaid Cymru (4) and the Green Party (1) sweet.

Friday 9 June, 10am: Theresa May to make statement

The media report is that Theresa May won’t resign (justified by the highest vote share since 1979). That’s my hunch too but more than that I expect negotiations to form a coalition or “confidence and supply” arrangement with the DUP will conclude quickly – this is their opportunity to play a sizeable role in ensuring Northern Ireland gets the settlement it needs in Brexit negotiations, recovering from recent difficulties and showing a more statesmanlike demeanour.

Making a prediction these days is a very risky business but I suspect Theresa May will still go to Buckingham Palace today, perhaps late into the evening.

But this is about the facts so what are the options? In essence it all needs to be resolved by Tuesday 13 June when Parliament will meet for the first time and the new Speaker will be sworn in.

Click here for the timetable if someone goes to Buckingham Palace today. If not, these are the parameters.

Friday 9 June – Tuesday 13 June: negotiations

by Tuesday 13 June: new Prime Minister must visit Buckingham Palace. Parliament is expected to return for the election of the Speaker and MPs will begin to be sworn in, including 100 new faces.

by Tuesday 13 June: new Prime Minister is likely to announce key Cabinet positions including Chancellor, Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Defence Secretary, and probably the minister in charge of Brexit negotiations.

by Wednesday 14 June: remaining Cabinet positions announced.

by Thursday 15 June: Secretaries of State should have been welcomed by their Permanent Secretaries, been given a desk, computer, and passes 

Friday 14 – Sunday 19 June: final list of ministerial appointments published by No. 10. This really needs to be wrapped up before the set piece State Opening of Parliament but even more thought than usual will go into it. With such poor general election results, much more thought must be given to how to keep the parliamentary party happy and as many people inside the tent as possible.

Monday 19 June: Queen’s Speech announces government’s programme and Brexit talks commence. The Queen’s Speech is broad brush and tends to cover no more than a handful of pages but it will be slimmed down further to avoid provoking coalition or ‘confidence and supply partners’. The focus will be on keeping as much away from parliament as possible.

End June: most Special Advisers will have been appointed, with Guido Fawkes usually doing an excellent job of providing a comprehensive list. 

w/c 10 July: Likely date for nominations for chairs of the select committees including the chair of the Committee for Exiting the European Union. The Standing Orders of the House of Commons set out a process that is likely to take at least six weeks to complete: party leaders have two weeks from the Queen’s Speech to agree which parties will chair which committees, and then 14 days are required before the ballot, when MPs vote on nominations. Results are likely to be announced following a ballot the w/c 17 July.

mid-July 2017: Select Committee membership announced. Once the Committee Chairs are appointed, the individual parties will hold their own internal elections to decide who will represent the party on each committee, the House then votes on the final list. In 2015 it was almost two months (8 July) before the Select Committees were fully functional. They’ll then need to take some time to decide their agenda for the parliamentary session, and are unlikely to do much before Parliament returns after the party conference recess in October.

w/c 23 July: Parliament likely to rise for the long Summer Recess. 

So there you have it – unless the issue you are focussing on is a matter of utmost national importance, you DEFINITELY have until at least until July to get your strategy and messaging right, and start to engage with Government and the House of Commons. Before then, they simply won’t be ready to engage with you.

And the rule of thumb for this period? More haste, less speed. Use the time well but don’t try to do what needs doing well too quickly.

If your organisation or sector does have a stake in the Brexit negotiations, the best thing you can do for now is usefully engage with the civil servants who are now under pressure to publish a host of consultations needed to inform the Brexit Bills.

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