This is the election where anything could happen. The Conservative Party has a strong poll lead and are favourites at the bookies, but as we know from past experience, there is a long way to go. Election debates, battle buses, controversies and wall to wall media coverage stand between us and our next government. Remember Theresa May’s disastrous manifesto launch which saw her commanding lead melt away in 2017? There are key moments in every election. In 2015, Ed Miliband lost his battle with a bacon sandwich and with it, his battle for Number 10. In 2010, the “I agree with Nick” debates were a breakthrough for the Lib Dems. Those with longer memories may remember John Prescott’s punch in 2001, or even Jennifer’s ear in 1992. There are 37 days to go. Expect the unexpected.
- Projecting £3m revenue, the company will be one of the UK’s leading independents focussed on public affairs
- Acquisition is first deal by fast-growing Connect since 2016 MBO
- Gráinne Walsh will lead Stratagem in Belfast and joins Connect’s top team
Connect, the Westminster-based public affairs and planning communications specialist, has today joined with Stratagem, Northern Ireland’s largest public affairs agency. While technically an acquisition, it is positioned as a merger, with Stratagem continuing to operate with its own highly successful brand.
The initiative comes at a pivotal political moment, with Northern Ireland playing a key role in Westminster politics and Brexit negotiations.
The move grows the overall Connect group team to 35 consultants and its projected group fee income to £3m, making it one of the UK’s largest public affairs focussed agencies that is independently owned.
Gráinne Walsh, Stratagem’s head of consultancy since 2013, will take over the role of director from Quintin Oliver. Gráinne will lead the Stratagem team in Belfast and become a member of the Connect leadership team.
Andy Sawford, managing partner of Connect, said: “Having grown our income organically by 50 per cent since 2016’s management buyout, Connect has been looking for the right opportunity to catalyse the next phase of our growth. There is a huge opportunity for us and Stratagem to grow together. Connect and Stratagem are a great fit, with closely aligned values, complementary products and services, and a shared commitment to setting high standards. Joining up with Belfast’s biggest public affairs firm creates an unrivalled client offer at a time when Northern Ireland is playing a pivotal role in UK and European affairs.”
Gráinne Walsh, director of Stratagem, said: “Today’s news represents an exciting opportunity for Stratagem. We would like to thank and pay tribute to Quintin for his vision in founding Stratagem and leadership to make us Northern Ireland’s number one public affairs agency. Quintin’s dedication and passion for politics and our business has seen Stratagem thrive and deliver outstanding results. These are changing times in politics and public policy, and it is now the right time for Stratagem to become part of a UK wide team with Connect and broaden our client offer.”
Quintin Oliver, founder of Stratagem, explained: “Stratagem has defined the public affairs market in Northern Ireland ever since the Good Friday Agreement two decades ago. Bringing Stratagem together with Connect makes huge sense at this stage, with talks underway, hopefully for the Assembly and Executive to return, and with the Brexit drama unfolding around us, across these islands.
“The joint business will bring added scale, investment and strong relationships with key policy-makers, opinion-formers and political institutions. I am pleased that the team at Stratagem will continue, headed by Gráinne Walsh and I wish them well as I now take a step away to concentrate on other projects.”
What does Theresa May’s resignation, and the arrival of a new Prime Minister, mean for Brexit? The fundamentals are the same: a divided country, a divided Parliament and a ticking clock. What changes with Theresa May’s resignation? First, we may revert to a ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ standpoint from the UK Government. Second, we may have a PM who has ruled out an extension beyond October 31st. So a No Deal exit from the EU this year, is now a much greater possibility.Read more
Florence Woodrow sets out a defence of all-female shortlists.
The UK remains in the midst of Brexit uncertainty. Much to the frustration of all sides of the debate, Parliament has been unable to reach a consensus on the best way forward and it is becoming increasingly apparent that a general election may be the only way to break the deadlock. Brexit has widened divisions in the UK and a more representative system is needed to heal the deep wounds in the British psyche.
Connect is proud to celebrate International Women’s Day and this year’s theme, #BalanceforBetter which is working towards building a gender-balanced workforce, with equal opportunity for all. The movement advocates that balance is not simply a women’s issue, it’s a business issue and that it is an essential component for economies and communities to thrive and develop.Read more
The emergence of The Independent Group of MPs (TIG) has brought a new thread to the Brexit weave with just five weeks to go until 29 March. Our clients have been asking if this represents a real shift in UK politics or a moment that will pass. To give something that resembles a coherent answer we need first to hit pause and look at the different elements at play.Read more
The Women and Work APPG is delighted to announce its 2019 theme Inclusivity and Intersectionality. Throughout our work over the past three years the we have sought to recognise and highlight the fact that women are not a homogenous group, and that a focus on gender alone can sometimes be misleading.