The 2017 General Election was a serious shock to the UK body politic. Theresa May went into the campaign as the ‘strong and stable’ leader of a Conservative Party in the ascendant; she emerged not just ‘weak and wobbly’, but struggling to stand up at all, and propped up by a controversial confidence and supply deal with the DUP.
May now stands as a powerless Prime Minister at the head of a minority government. And, although the next election is due in 2022, May’s weakened position and the instability of her government mean it could come much sooner. There is no expectation that Theresa May will lead the Conservatives into it.
In the meantime, Brexit negotiations are getting underway, and while May apparently launched the election to ‘strengthen her hand’, it ended up having exactly the opposite effect. The Prime Minister has found herself in a seriously weakened position at the negotiating table. So, while rhetoric from the likes of David Davis still suggests a ‘hard’ Brexit, it’s very unlikely that May and her negotiating team will be able to deliver it.
May’s weakened position also has serious implications at home. ‘Mayism’, if there ever was such a thing, has gone out the window with her advisors Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill. Rather than pushing ahead with any of her ambitious domestic policies, May put through a Queen’s Speech overwhelmingly focused on Brexit legislation. She’s likely to be much more cautious on the domestic front now.
So, what does all this mean for IPSE and the self-employed? Well, there’s now very little chance that the government will try to raise Class 4 NICs again. In fact, because of the government’s drastically weakened position, it’s now more likely to listen to reasoned suggestions for supporting the self-employed and thus boosting the UK economy. IPSE will do all it can to take advantage of this opportunity. The Government will be risk adverse, it will not try anything that would prompt a rebellion by its own MPs, the power of the backbenches will be very prevalent throughout this Parliament. IPSE will try and build support on the backbenches to stop anything that looks nasty.
However that does not mean we can be complacent. There is a danger that the calamitous changes to IR35 in the public sector could still be extended to the private sector if it got a degree of cross party support, IPSE needs to be vigilant and have a campaign ready even if there is a hint of that.
We’ll also prepare for the looming leadership change by not only building our connections at the highest levels of government but amongst those who may be jockeying for position in the lower ranks.
And what about Labour? Well, after their astonishing surge in the election, there’s a real possibility that Jeremy Corbyn could be the next Prime Minister of the UK. Of course, a lot could change before the next election. During its campaign, Labour walked a fine line on Brexit, allowing them to absorb both Remainer and Leaver votes. They may not be able to walk that line when the negotiations begin in earnest.
For the moment though, with Theresa May precariously propped up by the DUP and Jeremy Corbyn enjoying a belated honeymoon, a Labour government looks far more possible than only three months ago. And IPSE has to prepare for that, which is why we’re shoring up our influence right across the Labour Party.
Overall, far from quieting the uncertainty and instability unleashed by Brexit, Theresa May’s snap election has destabilised UK politics and shaken the country’s economy even further. With more turbulent times ahead, the UK economy needs the flexibility and dynamism of the selfemployed more than ever. The Taylor Report will make a major impact and the Government’s response will be of great importance to the self-employed. IPSE will work at the heart of government and right across the political landscape to make sure their contribution is recognised and their voice is heard.