Along with the rest of the UK, we woke up this morning to the surprise of momentum forming behind a majority (albeit slim) government for the Conservatives. The tone was set last night at the 10pm exit polls which put the Conservatives ahead, going against the grain of all previous polls which suggested that it would be incredibly tight between Labour and Conservative with neither able to gain a majority. So for an election where no clear winners were expected we now have two: David Cameron as Prime Minister with 331 seats (a majority of 12), as well as Nicola Sturgeon, under whose leadership the SNP swept the board in Scotland taking all but three of Scotland’s 59 seats.
The final results were:
Today has seen David Cameron meet with the Queen and announce the formation of a Conservative government. It has also witnessed the resignation of both Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg. This will set off leadership contests for both the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties and protracted soul searching of where both parties can go to next, having suffered greatly in their respective heartlands. Nigel Farage has also stood down as UKIP leader having failed to win the Thanet South seat, though leaving the door open for himself to stand for re-election in the Autumn.
But more of that later. For now, what is immediately important to the life sciences sector is what is expected under a Conservative administration. In practical terms, following today’s result we will see the announcement of the Cabinet and from there Ministerial appointments and briefs. During this time there is also potential for changes to be announced in the administration of government, i.e. abolishment or mergers of Departments or the transfer of responsibilities from one part of Whitehall to another. We will keep you updated as those announcements are made.
As you will know, pre-election, Conservative MP George Freeman was the Minister for Life Sciences. Freeman has returned to Parliament but we will have to wait and see if the post of a dedicated Life Sciences Minister is continued or whether it is within a broader brief, where that sits in Government and who is the individual with that Ministerial brief. However, in any scenario the policies set out in the Conservative manifesto give rise to a positive picture for the sector arising from today’s result. (Check out the BIA’s seven party manifesto overview document here). Continued commitment to an effective life sciences industrial strategy, further resources to regenerative medicine and synthetic biology, action on antimicrobial resistance plus a pledge to be the most competitive business tax regime in the G20 are all policies that the BIA has called for on behalf of its members. Again, watch this space for further details.
At a broader level this election outcome will prompt wider debate on some key macro-political issues – where the devolution debate will go next, constitutional reform and crucially the in-out referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU that the Conservatives have pledged to by the end of 2017. As set out in our UK Life Sciences Manifesto 2015-2020, the BIA believes that the UK government needs to set out a clear plan of the expected disruption to UK life science businesses including how it would expect to handle the European Medicines Agency leaving London, how medicines would be approved and regulated and the likely impact on investment.
Turning to the make-up of Parliament itself we see the inevitable mixture of departing figures, surprise exits, continuity and fresh blood. From the major parties, long-standing friends of the life sciences sector have stood down from Parliament including David Willetts, Andrew Miller and Andrew Lansley. The hit the Liberal Democrats have taken at the polls has extended to faces familiar to life sciences, including Vince Cable, Julian Huppert and Norman Baker. We also see continuity in that the previous government and shadow ministers for the life sciences brief, George Freeman and Iain Wright, are both returned to Parliament.
In terms of some new faces in the 2015 Parliament who are likely to be interested in and relevant to UK life sciences there are several to note, including:
- Kit Malthouse, pictured above alongside BIA CEO Steve Bates at the opening of the LSE in January this year ahead of the Healthcare Investment Forum, enters Parliament alongside his GLA colleague Boris Johnson, former headline speaker at the BIA’s UK Bioscience Forum
- Andrea Jenkyns, the new Conservative MP who took her seat at the expense of former Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, also pictured here at the 2015 BIA Gala Dinner when she spoke in her capacity as a champion for antimicrobial resistance
- Daniel Zeichner, the new Labour MP for Cambridge who BIA members met with in March 2015 to discuss innovation and finance policy in the context of a local biotech summit where BIA CEO Steve Bates was a keynote speaker
- Lucy Frazer, the new Conservative MP for South East Cambridgeshire (Jim Paice’s former seat) who the BIA has already introduced to a number of member companies.
We will be engaging with these figures and the rest of the new Parliamentary cast going forward and in particular at the BIA’s forthcoming Parliament Day on 25 June.
We hope this snapshot is useful in viewing today’s election result through a life sciences lens. We will be back in touch with further developments as they occur and do get in touch with your views, comments or questions.