King’s Speech unpacked

9, November, 2023
Politico, by John Johnson

CAMPAIGN CORNER

ONE YEAR ITCH: It’s almost 12 months since former Downing Street adviser Sam Richards launched pro-growth campaign Britain Remade  and let’s be honest, it’s not exactly been a chill year has it? Influence caught up with the group to take stock.

Diagnosis: The group believes Britain has strayed from its science and engineering past. It’s stuck with poor energy security, dreadful infrastructure and a faltering economy. But apart from that!

Big talk: A year on from launch and Richards is actually feeling rather reassured about pro-growth progress. Energy costs, squeezed commuters and the housing ladder are hot button issues  not just for their campaign, but for the country more broadly.

Common people: “It’s not just the major political parties that are starting to say this,” Richards says. “But it’s exactly what we’ve been hearing around the country … the commonality across different demographics, different age groups … it feels like there is a bit of momentum behind it.”

Liz’s legacy: With politicians of all stripes barely able to get through a sentence these days without throwing in “growth”  has this elusive state become a bit of a buzzword rather than the sign of a party with a coherent plan?

On the up: Richards reckons the political focus on growth is actually pretty encouraging. They’re particularly enthused about Keir Starmer’s focus on planning reform and Labour’s promise to be “builders, not blockers.”

He adds: “There are specifics there that are reassuring,” he says of Labour. “Clearly if they win the next election then the devil will be in the detail and they’ll actually have to deliver on those promises — but the rhetoric is reassuring.”

Bright sparks: Also reassuring for Richards is the similarity between Labour’s energy policy and Britain Remade’s own platform  something he says was drawn up following conversations with businesses across the country. The campaign boss says the government still has a real shot to pull its socks up and deliver a coherent plan in the upcoming Autumn Statement — despite getting a kicking from Britain Remade over new oil and gas licenses.

Sunak shift: “They’ve made some more positive noises in this space in the prime minister’s speech on net zero,” he says. “He’s talked about a shift to spatial planning — something we have called for.”

More to come: With 20,000 supporters, the group has big plans to push fresh policy ahead of the election  including work on estate regeneration as a way of improving housing stock and creating new homes.

Election fever: Combined with a series of town hall events across the country to take the pulse of voters, Richards says the group will be pulling together its own growth manifesto to pitch its vision to the parties before polling day. “It’s going to summarize how we can get Britain back to what we’re good at … and how we can again, be the country that is building the industries of the future,” he adds.