As we move into the New Year, Keene takes a look ahead at what’s on the political agenda for 2013.
For the past five years, the economy has been the central political issue: and 2013 isn’t shaping up any differently. Despite this, the the Government’s broad strategy is unlikely to change, with the Conservatives and the Lib Dems wedded to the Coalition’s austerity strategy. Labour, for its part, is likely to continue to develop its strategy behind the scenes, as Ed Miliband waits until the 2015 General Election draws nearer to reveal his plans.
The first big piece of economic news in 2013 will come on 25 January, when the ONS releases its estimate for GDP growth in Q4 2012. The Chancellor will be desperate to avoid growth slipping into negative territory, opening up the risk of a ‘triple dip recession’ when we get the data for Q1 2013 in April. However growth comes out, the Chancellor’s Budget announcement on 20th March will be well worth watching, even if the Chancellor has little room for manoeuvre.
We’ll also get to see Mark Carney, the Canadian who is taking over as Governor of the Bank of England, replace outgoing Governor Mervyn King in June. Carney was courted heavily by George Osborne, and all eyes will be on how he settles in through 2013.
Elsewhere, attention is focused on the proposed 1% increase benefit cap, which will be voted on in the Commons next week. In a microcosm of the political debate to be played out throughout this year, the government is counting on a continuing public support for reforming welfare payouts, while the Opposition hopes that the cap, which they have pledged to oppose, will rouse significant discontent amongst those the government claims to support: low-income earners.
Another issue expected to hit the headlines is marriage equality. With Equalities Minister Maria Miller due to set out a bill in January, the existing conflict within the Conservative party is likely to deepen as David Cameron faces fierce opposition from many backbenchers and activists.
An amendment to the Energy Bill proposed by Tim Yeo MP, Chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, to add a carbon intensity target for the energy industry, is also likely, and could ignite disagreement within the Government over Green issues. The unpopular Communications Data Bill, through which the government could openly access the public’s electronic communications, is also expected to provoke Liberal Democrat dissent.
Competition to get bills included in the Queen’s Speech, the big set-piece event in May where the Government will set out its plans, has already begun, with Ministers jostling to get their projects included. Also in May, on Thursday 2nd, all eyes will be on the thirty-six county council elections taking place in England and Wales. Labour will be hoping to replicate their success in last year’s by-elections, while the Lib Dems will be desperate to halt their electoral slide.
Arguably the greatest clash within the Government is over Britain’s position in Europe. He is due to give a much awaited speech on Europe in coming weeks, in which he is expected to clarify Coalition policy towards Britain’s EU membership. This should include an indication of the likelihood of a referendum on Britain’s membership, something heavily desired by many Tory backbenchers.
The next EU Budget talks are expected to take place around the same time, in early February. They will provide another flashpoint for the PM, who lost a vote at the end of last year on his plan to seek a freeze in the Budget, with Parliament voting in favour of a cut instead.
Finally, as Britain takes on leadership of the G8 David Cameron has made the establishment of a free trade agreement between Europe and the US a key priority. The ambitious plan, which he argues would deliver significant financial benefit to Europe and the US, is likely to face resistance, particularly in the USA.
He was formerly Head of Policy at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). With degrees in history and economics from the Universities of Oxford and London, Jake is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a trustee of the European Association of Philanthropy and Giving and advises several governments on public policy. He also advises clients on CSR and philanthropy activities.
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