I believe it is only a matter of days and weeks at most before PM Theresa May has her day in the forum. The knives are out for the Tory leader, make no mistake.
Early today I figured that there would be another UK General Election within two years; but I’m now persuaded that it will likely be called before the end of this year.
Assuming that is the case and presuming that Jeremy Corbyn heeds advice and populates his shadow cabinet with colleague Labourites who have prior experience of actual government – that means the Blair/Brown era – he could well become Prime Minister of a Labour/Labour-led administration within a matter of months.
We are sold the idea that big business doesn’t like any government with socialist leanings. My answer to that is go take a look at Norway, and that’s just one example where it seems to me that industry gets on perfectly well with the political machine.
In the case of upstream oil & gas, the industry absolutely knows where it stands with the politicians in Oslo and the very able Norwegian Petroleum Directorate. Petroleum & energy ministers tend to have a reasonable life expectancy too and the accent remains pragmatic and long-term.
Here, we’re about to get yet another energy secretary/minister foisted upon the North Sea.
I’ve been covering this industry for the past 27 years and I’ve probably witnessed a similar number of minsters/secretaries and maybe more, slung into and flung out of the Westminster revolving door. As frequently highlighted by The Press and Journal, the life expectancy of any politician handed the energy brief can sometimes be just months. Treasury has been rather more stable.
At least we now have the Oil & Gas Authority; a quango-like entity created under the Cameron Administration after extensive negotiations between that government and an increasingly frustrated North Sea oil & gas industry. OK, it still has to report through the Department of This, That & Whatever else, but the OGA is strong and has good leadership, in my view.
That is going to be very important for North Sea stability over the coming months and years of dreadful political uncertainty let alone that suicidal nonsense known as Brexit.
Yes, it helps the industry, at least in the Scottish north-east, that the Tories gained power over the Scottish National Party. Yes, ousted Alex Salmond and Callum McCaig, for example, fought the North Sea corner during the Cameron years and May period; but I guess that the election of a real oilman, Colin Clark, as the new Banff & Buchan MP potentially helps Big Oil in Westminster, assuming that post-election back-stabbing doesn’t reach epidemic levels among the Tories.
Meanwhile, it’s good that Oil & Gas UK appears to have its head screwed on and, regardless of whatever turmoil besets Westminster, is in a position to continue leading the North Sea industry’s own self-help initiatives, some of which were born prior to the oil price collapse precipitated in mid-2014.
Moreover, it has what I consider to be a succinct, strong response to the initial May Government’s Green Paper on Industrial Strategy.
In OGUK’s case it submitted a compact, 35-page document which gets to the point rapidly with five priorities mapped out with clarity. Whilst aimed at politicians and central policymakers, the response is, I believe, a helpful vade mecum for the industry itself.
Then there is the Vision 2035 model for the future, which involved government and draws on two narratives: one for UKCS oil & gas production; the other for the supply chain.
It is closely related to the Green Paper response and the election manifesto that OGUK had the presence of mind to draw up too.