What do they say about best-laid plans? I am sure that is how Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) chief executive Andrew Bailey felt mid-morning on Tuesday 18 April, as he launched the FCA’s business plan for 2017/18.
Instead, prime minister Theresa May stole his thunder, by taking the country and many in her own party by surprise and announcing her intention to hold a snap general election.
Now this has been voted on by Parliament, election day has been confirmed as Thursday 8 June, meaning we are just under seven weeks away from polling day.
More of the same
What should we expect in the party manifestos?
I am sure there are many ‘policy wonks’ across all the political parties thinking exactly the same thing, as they scramble to get manifestos ready for publication after Parliament is dissolved on Wednesday 3 May.
As set out in Theresa May’s election statement in front of 10 Downing Street, the Conservatives will attempt to run a narrow election campaign based on ‘leadership’ and ‘unity’ at a time of ‘national interest’ with Brexit.
Therefore, we should expect the Conservative manifesto to be light on new policy pledges. It will focus on existing government policy – the industrial strategy as a key plank – and it is rumoured it will contain commitments from May’s Lancaster House speech on ending freedom of movement, access to the single market and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice over British courts.
On the contentious issue of the triple lock on the state pension (which raises payments by the higher of earnings, prices or 2.5%) expect the government to fudge the issue in the manifesto now Labour has pledged to keep it in place until 2025.
The Conservatives may be over 20 points ahead of Labour in most polls, but are unlikely to want to upset this key voting demographic.
In contrast, we can expect a very radical Labour manifesto.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, with some justification, is positioning himself as the anti-establishment candidate: ‘I don’t play their rules. And if a Labour government is elected on 8 June, then we won’t play by their rules’.
There will be measures in the Labour manifesto on corporate tax avoidance, restricting the closure of bank branches and private sector pay ratios, but we can also expect radical proposals on housing, young person’s savings and the funding of healthcare. However, Corbyn last week ruled out a second referendum on the Brexit deal.
Labour has also already made a significant commitment on pensions, through its Pensioners’ Pledge Card, which will form part of the party’s manifesto and appeal to older voters. The four key principles include keeping the triple lock on state pensions up to 2025; implementing the Women Against State Pension Inequality campaign demands for transitional arrangements on women’s pension age increases; protecting the pensions of UK citizens living overseas; and keeping the winter fuel allowance and free bus passes for pensioners.
Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron has positioned his party as anti-Brexit. In doing so he will be hoping his part can secure a number of significant marginal constituency wins, to repeat the stunning Richmond by-election victory in December 2016, where Sarah Olney overturned a 23,000 majority to defeat former Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith.
This means the Lib Dem manifesto will contain pledges to appeal to ‘Remain’ voters in the EU referendum, such as maintaining access to the EU Single Market.
The implications of this general election will have significant ramifications for financial services – and the country – as the parties outline genuine policy and political differences.
The question is whether voter apathy will dissuade the electorate from engaging in this debate. Ultimately will very much have changed in the UK come Friday 9 June, when the political focus turns back to Brexit?
This piece originally appeared in New Model Adviser on Tuesday 25 April.