Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
November 2022, Virtual
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
BBT columnist and political lobbyist Gareth Morgan predicts a bumpy ride for some of the UK’s biggest transport issues.
It is usually about this time that we begin sketching out the political year ahead for clients and factoring this into their planning – and it is safe to say that 2014 is going to be hugely eventful.
On the politics side of things we see local elections, European elections, the Scottish referendum and the appointment of the new European Commission.
The local elections in May represent, for many, an opening skirmish preceding the general election in 2015. London is a major battleground, and the fate of various boroughs will be seen as a harbinger for 2015 and also a testing ground for the campaign messages that will be used then.
European election results will chiefly be analysed for how big a chunk UKIP takes out of the Conservative vote. There is palpable fear among more than a few Conservative MPs regarding the impact of UKIP on their own prospects, and how MEP colleagues fare will be scrutinised closely.
In the European Commission we will see, while not an election, certainly a change in key personnel. The current term for the 28 commissioners expires in October, with new nominations coming forward from member states then being placed into various portfolios by the commission president. This will have a big impact on the agenda for the travel sector as it is the commission which is the key driver of policy in transport and business.
September will see the Scottish independence vote, the result of which will not only have a huge bearing on the fate of the nations that make up the UK, but also, potentially, the ability of the Labour Party south of the border to win another general election (Labour has 41 MPs in Scotland, the Conservatives have one).
On the policy side of things there is equally no let up. The Sir Howard Davies-chaired Airports Commission’s interim report was published in December, when it shortlisted Heathrow and Gatwick as locations for a possible new runway in the south-east, as well as offering suggestions of how to best use existing capacity. The proposal for a new airport in the Thames estuary will still be examined, despite not making the shortlist.
But it is High-Speed 2 (HS2) where the real fireworks will take place. We still don’t know which way Labour will jump, but it is likely there will be a concerted fight-back from HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport on the project – particularly on whether they can chop out some of the estimated cost.
However, the current bill, which will set out the proposed Phase 1 route in statute, will undergo forensic analysis by the Hybrid Bill Committee (appointment to this committee, which will meet for months, is being seen by MPs as punishment for past misdemeanours) and will be subject to an all-out political brawl, much of it within the Conservative Party.
Meanwhile, in the midst of all this electioneering, rowing over policy and trying to keep the coalition functioning, the parties will be trying to nail down the content of their 2015 manifestos.
All-in-all, 2014 promises to be quite a ride.
Gareth Morgan is a political lobbyist and director with Cavendish Communications (cavendishpc.co.uk). He is an advisor to the Guild of Travel Management Companies (GTMC)