Britain’s Re-elected ‘CEO’

As three of Britain’s political party leaders fell on their swords spectacularly after the General Election, a sense of uncertainty descended upon David Cameron, his party and the British people.

The ‘known’ outcome of the election was obvious for all to see. Labour failed to secure victory. The Liberal Democrats were in meltdown. The Scottish National Party was riding high north of the border and Ukip became the latest causality of the UK’s ‘first past the post’ electoral system, managing to elect only one MP to parliament despite securing nearly 3.8m votes.

The ‘unknown’ outcome was that for the first time in five years the UK has a majority government and for the first time in 23 years, a Conservative majority. But what does this outcome mean for Britain and David Cameron? Credited as a competent and capable communicator, albeit light on conviction and sometimes wanting in vision he has an in-tray that would make any incoming CEO pause for thought before progressing.

It’s difficult comparing a political party to a business, but David Cameron has persistently framed his party as the ‘party of business’. So let’s analyse for a moment some of the more challenging decisions he faces through the lens of a business observer.

His principal challenge as the ‘newly re-appointed CEO’ is that he has already called time on his tenure. He hasn’t given a date when he will step aside, but it will have to be 2018 at the latest to give his successor time to reshape his ‘executive’ team and set out their programme for change before the 2020 election. But, the moment you declare your intention not to continue power, influence and patronage begins to drain away from you. The already daunting task of delivering a controversial series of manifesto commitments was made harder by announcing this decision pre-election.

Next up, the elephant in the room or; the European Union referendum bill. This promises to be the defining moment of Mr Cameron’s leadership. Even if he manages to successfully renegotiate Britain’s terms of membership and leads the referendum vote to remain in the EU, for a large section of his party (‘employee workforce’ and ‘shareholders’), it still won’t be sufficient. In their eyes he will have committed treachery and they will ruthlessly campaign to remove him.

If that wasn’t tough enough, Mr Cameron has to find up to £12billion in public sector savings by 2020, negotiate a new settlement with a reinvigorated Scotland First Minister extending the fiscal autonomy of Holyrood, implement a constituency boundary review reducing the total number of MPs by 50, as well as introduce a new British bill of rights designed to replace the European Human Rights Act (although this has already encountered massive internal opposition and was subsequently watered down for the Queen’s Speech). These are challenges on a massive scale.

Mr. Cameron cannot hope to succeed with every issue but, freed from his former coalition partners, now is his time to channel his energies into articulating a clear, compelling dynamic vision of what Britain can achieve in the next five years if it follows the course he has set.

Time is ticking on the Prime Minister’s watch, but like any leader with a refreshed mandate and in his final term, he has one final roll of the authoritative dice. Now he just needs to prioritise what really matters to him, as it will determine his legacy and possibly Britain’s future position as a leading global player.

Rupert Lewis is a Practice Director in the Corporate & Public Affairs Practice at Ketchum Pleon in London. He specialises in public affairs and reputation management and has worked with clients in most sectors including financial services, infrastructure, manufacturing, telecoms and gaming. When he’s not talking politics, he’s supporting Fulham FC or winning (mainly!) money on racetracks. Follow him @rupertlewis