The last 24 hours has seen a new Prime Minister installed in Number 10 and the main appointments made to her new Government. Familiar faces have gone. Old faces have returned. What, therefore, should publishers make of all this? Below are some thoughts on the appointments of most relevance to us:
Theresa May, Prime Minister
In a speech which wouldn’t have sounded unfamiliar coming out of Tony Blair’s mouth, the new prime minister indicated her intention to continue the rebrand of the Conservative’s that she started when Chair of the Party and most notably reinforced with her now infamous “nasty party” speech. By drawing attention to the full title of the Conservative and Unionist Party she sought to stress that this meant “we believe in a union not just between the nations of the United Kingdom but between all of our citizens - every one of us - whoever we are and wherever we’re from.” She continued: “The government I lead will be driven, not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours. We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives. When we take the big calls, we'll think not of the powerful, but you. When we pass new laws, we'll listen not to the mighty, but to you. When it comes to taxes, we'll prioritise not the wealthy, but you.” Impressive rhetoric on which she will now be expected to deliver.
The PM appears to be reassembling her closest allies from the Home Office by her side in Downing Street. Fiercely loyal, both Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy have been constants at her side since she announced her leadership bid. Isabel Hardman of the Spectator speculates on their potential influence in shaping the direction of the new Government.
David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union
Setting aside whether he will be able to fit his new title on a business card, David Davis return to Government has a whiff of back to the future about it. His last role in Government was as Minister of State for Europe – he has now been charged with negotiating the terms of our exit. A prominent Brexiter, it does seem that with this, and Liam Fox’s, appointment there may be a “well, you wanted this, you sort it!” thinking behind it.
Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade
Another prominent Brexiter making a return to Government , Liam Fox has been put in charge of a new Department for International Trade. The creation of a new department specifically charged to manage this is clear recognition of how important such trade deals will be for the UK once outside the EU. Fox had to resign from Government following allegations of misconduct on the part of a close adviser. He has been anxious to return and with the referendum vote going the right way has now been given the opportunity to do so. See above, though, for comment into what might be behind the new Prime Minister’s decision!
Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education
There are elements of back to the future at the Department for Education as well. Justine Greening takes over a much expanded department which will now encompass a big chunk of what was previously the responsibility of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The new department will now not only have responsibility for education up to the age of 18 (as opposed to 16 years previously) but also further and higher education, skills and apprenticeships. This was an important department for us before – it becomes an even more important one going forward.
Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
The new Culture Secretary has, some might say, a hard act to follow with the departure of John Whittingdale. Having spent 10 years as chair of the Culture Select Committee, John was able to really hit the ground running when he took up post. We assume it will take Karen Bradley a little longer but we will be seeking a meeting with her at the earliest opportunity to talk about the strength of UK publishing and the importance of supporting our industry on everything from intellectual property to boosting exports.
Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
This is a return to BIS for Greg Clark who previously served in the department as Universities and Science Minister. He is widely viewed as a steady pair of hands which he will need as he brings together two government departments (Department for Energy and Climate Change having been abolished). It remains to be seen whether research policy remains here or follows higher education to the Department for Education.
While we now know many of the new members of the Cabinet, the more junior ministerial appointments will continue to be announced in the coming days. As ever, these more specialist positions will be incredibly important in shaping those areas of policy that affect publishing and we will seek engagement as soon as we know more. We also await a raft of new advisers who we can expect to be appointed by their ministerial sponsors in the next few weeks.