With a summer of celebration ahead with both the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympics a month later, the Government will be hoping that the feel good factor will help give the country a boost and provide some temporary respite from the economic downturn and generally poor poll ratings it currently faces.
Clearly the Government will be keen to position the celebrations as national events that will bring economic benefits to even the furthest corners of the country. However there is no doubt that London remains the main focus which will enable the newly elected Mayor to capitalise on the events early in his tenure. Boris will undoubtedly claim the credit for the celebrations and look to capitalise on London’s position as a global destination whether for business or pleasure.
However the summer’s celebrations present a number of challenges politically.
Firstly is the question mark that still hangs over the current Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, Jeremy Hunt following revelations about how his office interacted with News International. With events of such national importance, the last thing the Prime Minister will want is to lose his Secretary of State with just days to go. But it will be close. With the first stage of the Leveson inquiry not due to report until later this summer, and with continued pressure from the Opposition over the Culture Secretary’s approach to the Sky/BSkyB deal the Prime Minister must be hoping that he can avoid a last minute reshuffle between now and the Olympics, forced on him by the resignation of the Culture Secretary.
Another serious issue facing the Government and the Home Office specifically is the issue of immigration queues at Heathrow. With some passengers having to wait up to two and a half hours, this is not the warm welcome to Britain that the Government or LOCOG had envisaged. Damian Green, the Minister gave a robust defence of the situation and has promised measures to tackle the problem but until queues are reduced and the results are tangible, both Damian Green and Theresa May will remain under pressure. Added to which, the issue of security is not only a major concern to all involved in the planning of national events and celebrations but has caused local issues when it was revealed that some residential blocks of flats in London were being prepared to host defence systems, with residents unhappy at the proposal.
With less than a month until the Queen’s Jubilee and just under 100 days until the Olympics, the Government will be hoping that their recent troubles are behind them and that the summer of celebration acts as a summer of distraction. They say a week is a long time in politics, so think what could happen in 100 days…