What does the #IndGroup mean for public affairs?

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Date posted: 05/03/2019

Whether the newly-formed group of MPs in Parliament successfully turns itself into a fully-fledged party has yet to be seen. But it is already clear that either way, it will have an impact on public affairs work.

There are still many unknowns about the Independent Group, but it seems to be making all the right noises to indicate it is in fact developing into a Party. Its members have been quick to establish themselves on social media channels, they have appointed a spokesperson for the group and assigned organisational roles and policy responsibilities to each of their 11 members.

Whilst we are yet to see any position the group takes on issues outside of Brexit, or learn what their values are it seems increasingly likely that this will come to light soon.

There have been opinions expressed both ways on whether the group has any real long-term prospects. It is already being criticised for its lack of coherence and rigour, but that doesn’t exactly distinguish it from the two big political parties!

So what are some of the early implications of all of this for public affairs? Here are some of Dr Stuart Thomson’s top tips:

Plan for an early election
There are different views about whether the establishment of the group brings forward the prospect of an early election, but it certainly seems to make sense to plan for one as there are no guarantees either way. If there is an election, have you thought about potential new MPs, what outreach may be required or what a political pause could do to a campaign?

Think cross-party
In the immediate term, it is unlikely that cross-party bridges can be built when it comes to a campaign. Especially on the Labour side, given some of the comments to date, many MPs could simply refuse to have anything to do with a campaign that involves members of the Independent Group. But as the temperature returns to normal, there will need to be less tip-toeing around sensitivities and more activity aimed at coalition-building.

Treat them as individuals
Especially in the early stages of the group’s development, treat them as individuals rather than simply trying to appeal to them as a whole or on the basis of a shared belief system. Yes, it’s more time-consuming and requires more effort; but it’s the only way to think about working with them. Whilst the group now has a spokesperson and policy areas have been assigned they haven’t yet done the hard work of working out what their positions are. Until they show any united thinking on issues outside of Brexit or shared values, there is no clear hook to engage them as a collective.

Keep watching
As the group gets bigger, their reach will increase. With size comes Parliamentary clout, and more media attention. They will become a more important part of campaigns and could occupy a pivotal position. Should it grow, then with that growth comes finance, backers, wider networks, advisers, etc. Each of these aspects could become important considerations for a public affairs campaign.

Make things easier by streamlining
The group, away from the comfort and resources of their former Parties, will be stretched. By collaborating with like-minded organisations you will be able to create a stronger voice that gets heard through the increased workload. As this group grows, it will become increasingly important to engage with it, and by joining forces with public affairs professionals in other organisations, you will be more likely to get face time, and have your voice heard.

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