Sector: Government Relations and Public Affairs

Government Reshuffle: The Opening Act

   |   By  |  0 Comments

When it comes to Cabinet reshuffles, most politicians are well versed in the day’s proceedings. An anxious wait, a scurry to Number 10, a forced smile to the press – regardless of a promotion, demotion, or full-blown defenestration. As some ministers wait to know their fate, few would have woken up this morning and accurately guessed how the day would unfold. Before most had the chance to make a cup of coffee, Rishi Sunak had already rolled the dice on one of the greatest political gambles we’ve seen in recent years.

Westminster has been awash with reshuffle rumours since party conference season. With the Conservatives trailing heavily in the polls – and key events such as the Autumn Statement fast approaching – there was little doubt that Sunak would reshuffle his top team to prepare for the impending general election and once again attempt to reset his fortunes. Plus, with Suella Braverman’s controversial article in The Times critiquing the police without Number 10 approval, the Prime Minister seized his opportunity to stamp his authority on the government machine.

Braverman’s sacking would have no doubt stolen today’s broadsheet headlines if it weren’t for Sunak’s “dead cat strategy” – a Cabinet appointment leaving SW1 in total shock. Enter the stage – David Cameron. The former Prime Minister was this morning created a life peer in order to take up the position of Foreign Secretary, in an attempt to reclaim the centre ground from Labour.

The reshuffle of the great offices of state also raises serious policy dilemmas. The new Home Secretary, James Cleverly has publicly lobbied against Braverman’s decision to place 1,700 asylum seekers on the former RAF Wethersfield, a decision which will now fall under his remit – leaving the Government’s immigration policy here in a somewhat grey area. Meanwhile, only five weeks ago, Cameron was scathing in his criticism of Sunak’s decision to scrap HS2. Coupled with his own premiership denoting a period of closer ties between the UK and China – in stark contrast to this Government’s current position – most will watch with wonder as to how the Government will dutifully line up behind Sunak’s vision and reconcile its differences.

Elsewhere, Liz Truss’ ally and former Deputy Prime Minister Thérèse Coffey has been dismissed as Environment Secretary, while Conservative rising star Laura Trott has been appointed Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Victoria Atkins will be tasked with attempting to cut NHS waiting lists in her new position as Health Secretary, with Steve Barclay taking on the top job at DEFRA. This reshuffle has so far been characterised by bringing Sunak’s friends and allies closer into the tent, while promoting fresh faces that will likely play well in the pre-election media rounds.

As the week continues, we will expect to see further changes at the junior ministerial level. That said, we’ve already had multiple resignations from those who aren’t contesting the next general election– veteran Schools Minister Nick Gibb has left the DfE while Colchester MP Will Quince has stepped down as Minister of State for Health, having announced in the summer his intention not to seek re-election. For others, it presents the chance to refocus their attention onto an electoral footing, doubling down efforts to shore up their slim constituency majorities.

But there will be little chance to dwell on the changes that are being made. Next week’s Autumn Statement will bring home to ministers the challenging fiscal framework they now must work in – and while Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is safe for now, he will be fully aware his day of judgement will come next Wednesday at the despatch box.

The show must go on. Nervous waits will continue, while a few glasses will be raised in quiet celebration amongst those who have climbed the greasy pole. Yet few things in politics are certain – David Cameron’s return emphasises that political destinies are never straight forward, and the stage is constantly set for a triumphant encore, or a crippling opening night.

Authored by Ed Lavelle, Senior Account Manager, Public Affairs

Party conference season delivers anything but bread and butter politics

   |   By  |  0 Comments

Grayling UK FMCG Policy

Now that the dust has settled on party conference season, it would be remiss to say that FMCG policy was high up the agenda for either of the main two UK political parties. While HS2 dominated proceedings in Manchester, Labour Conference provided a platform for Kier Starmer to woo the business community during his Leader’s speech – albeit covered in (hopefully biodegradable) glitter. But there was very little by way of concrete policy for the sector to get its teeth into.

Perhaps it is to be expected that party conference season focuses on the big-ticket items for Sunak and Starmer as they seek to define their approach to the issues that will likely define the forthcoming election campaign – housing, energy, and transport, to name a few. Getting into the weeds of policies including Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), Deposit Return Schemes (DRS), and restrictions to high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) products might not be too palatable for businesses or voters still navigating a cost-of-living crisis.

In fact, Rishi Sunak’s surprise move to ban smoking for the next generation was the closest either party got to outlining an approach to FMCG policy, and even this announcement was directly linked to easing the cost burden on the NHS. A cynic might even suggest this could be a ‘legacy’ policy for a Prime Minister firmly against the ropes.

But just how much is the decision to kick the can down the road damaging progress? Continued government delays to waste reforms have left businesses millions of pounds out of pocket, whilst Labour’s lack of clarity on recycling and HFSS policy makes it difficult for the FMCG sector to develop marketing strategies and plan investments.

To focus in on food, it has been six months since Henry Dimbleby quit his position as the UK’s food tsar amidst anger at a lack of strategy from the government on health and diet. Dimbleby, though, remains a formidable force, and following Conservative Conference, criticised the government’s decision to prioritise smoking regulation over the growing obesity crisis.

It wouldn’t be controversial to say there has been a lack of ambition to develop a coherent, collaborative approach to food policy, with the current government using the guise that any intervention will amount to ‘nanny-state’ politicking. For now, it seems the Conservative Party is keen to brush any policies that could increase the cost of the average shopping basket under the rug, to avoid the potential voter backlash.

On the other hand, the Labour Party signalled a more interventionist approach to tackling the obesity crisis and, at its conference, major retailers lined up to voice their support for mandatory targets and legislation to tackle unhealthy food – arguing that a voluntary approach isn’t going far enough.

While Labour’s shadow public health minister Preet Gill told conference a new ‘health mission delivery board’ would be established as part of a crackdown on HFSS sales and advertising, there remains very little – to pardon the pun – meat on the bones of Labour’s policy proposals. Labour will be aware that backing Dimbleby’s sweeping reforms could risk accusations of putting further strain on the pockets of consumers, and as such, the party remains paralysed on this issue – on the one hand pushing manufacturers to go further to reformulate, and on the other, avoiding saying, well, anything at all really.

So, what about waste and recycling reforms? Both EPR and DRS remain firmly on the backburner while businesses seek to understand exactly how the reforms will work together. Consistent household collections – or ‘seven bins’ – has been villainised by the Prime Minister himself, despite a similar policy proving hugely successful in Wales.

Given how divisive these reforms have become – with DRS becoming the first skirmish of the Internal Market Act – it seems unlikely that the technicalities of food and packaging packing policy will come into the limelight before the election. For Labour, a lack of resource in Shadow Ministerial teams may mean policy cannot be fully formed until, and if, the party gets into government.

But still, as parties’ wargame their election strategies, it is crucial to engage with influencers across the political sphere to outline the technicalities and genuine business impacts of policies impacting the sector.

On HFSS it seems likely we’ll see a change in direction to a more interventionist approach once any new government is in post and has got past the election hurdle, whereas packaging policy remains an open door ahead of DRS and EPR ‘go live’ dates in October 2025. But we know there’s an ambition to do more to boost recyclability and reform the waste system, so what will come next? It’s critical to engage now, to help shape and scope the debate, before the future direction of policy travel becomes too far set in stone.

Polling should always be taken with a pinch of salt, but it seems increasingly likely the UK will welcome its first Labour Government in 15 years – so don’t be slow to forge those relationships. With Starmer’s new-look Labour Party there is a legitimate opportunity for businesses to engage in the policymaking process, and to highlight to positive initiatives underway in the FMCG sector – whether promoting healthier options, low-and-no alcohol alternatives, or innovative packing formats.

At Grayling, our specialist FMCG team is well-versed in navigating this complex and volatile policy landscape. We are proud to help organisations:

  • Target political influencers and media to highlight the need for a supportive policy framework.
  • Navigate a complicated regulatory environment, identifying risks and opportunities on the horizon.
  • Hero the positive consumer story to tell on sustainable diets and packaging, building brand affinity.

To speak with our dedicated FMCG team, please contact Michael Broughton via

Labour Party Conference: Focused on winning

   |   By  |  0 Comments

As the curtain closes on Labour Party Conference 2023 – possibly the last before the next general election – we look at the key themes that businesses should take away.

Last year’s gathering took place against a backdrop of that Liz Truss Budget and a government on the verge of collapse. Labour’s lead in the polls was in ‘crushing landslide’ territory and, perhaps for the first time, there was a real sense of expectation rather than hope. The atmosphere was verging on giddy.

Labour Party Conference 2023 was last year’s older, more mature sibling. The watchword was ‘focus’. Rumours abound that the Shadow Cabinet, backbenchers and PPCs were under strict instructions to limit their refreshments and avoid any potentially compromising situations. It seemed to work; everyone was on their best behaviour.

The message discipline was impressive, and the extensive courting of business by Labour over the last year appeared to have paid off. Businesses were there in their droves, causing some members to mutter that the atmosphere was overly corporate. Senior Labour staffers didn’t mind, though. This was by far the most lucrative conference for the party in recent years, providing an important boost to the coffers ahead of the next election.

In response to the Prime Minister’s backtracking on net zero targets and HS2, shadow ministers confidently and consistently argued for policy stability above all, even if that means making some difficult calls such as not revoking recently awarded oil and gas licenses. In emphasising the economic arguments for ambitious and stable decarbonisation targets to drive private investment, Labour impressed businesses and avoided the trap that Rishi Sunak set last week.

Conference appeared to be a crystalising moment in Labour’s offer to business: we’ll provide the structures, policy certainty and stable government; we expect you to partner with us to drive significant investment. In a “third way” moment that would have made Tony Blair proud, Keir Starmer presented this in his speech as “not state control, not pure free markets…but a genuine partnership”.

The speech, while perhaps not delivered with the same verve and punch as last year’s, presented a clearer vision than we had previously heard from Starmer. That vision is taking shape around the idea of “national renewal”. The central premise of his argument is that the UK is broken and entering an “age of insecurity”, where the forces of technology, economic weakness, movement of people, and climate change combine to demand a remodelling of the British state after 13 years of Conservative neglect.

This is not “sunlit uplands” by any means, more a sober diagnosis of the significant challenges that can be overcome with hard work – and a warning to the party faithful and the country that change will not happen overnight. There was a strong feeling amongst delegates that Labour needs to not just win the next election but win big and govern for at least 10 years.

The big ticket policy in the hour that Starmer spoke had been announced by Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves the day before in her surprisingly tubthumping speech. Labour’s plans to radically overhaul the planning system for critical national infrastructure and building 1.5m new homes, including using development corporations to overcome barriers, sound bold and risky given how local objections can cause political headaches.

Alongside this, there was plenty for Labour’s core voters to get their teeth into, from VAT on private schools to the appointment of a Covid corruption commissioner. Naturally this wasn’t enough for some on the left of the party, who would have preferred less talk of fiscal discipline and more radical investment in public services.

But if the aim of the conference was to present the party as united, serious and ready to govern, then Starmer and his team will feel it is mission accomplished. However, while there was strictly no complacency from the party leadership, expectations of party members are running high. The pressure is now on to deliver the majority that they expect, for which winning in Scotland will be key. Anything less will surely be seen as an enormous missed opportunity.

To chat to the team about your organisation’s Public Affairs strategy, contact Alex Dismore at

Grayling Analysis – 2023 Spanish General Election

   |   By  |  0 Comments

Our Spanish public affairs team has prepared a detailed analysis of the 2023 Spanish General Election. The analysis allows you to discover the political takeaways from July 23rd, with surprising results that will have consequences in the Spanish socio-political arena.

The Popular Party (centre-right party) was the most voted list, although Pedro Sánchez (the current president from the centre-left party, PSOE) is emerging as the main candidate for the investiture. However, a repeat election is an option that cannot be ruled out either.

Click here to read the analysis in full.

Interview with Sarina Kiayani, Senior Public Affairs Officer, Dogs Trust  

   |   By  |  0 Comments

At Grayling we wanted to shine a light on the incredible women in the Public Affairs industry and the work they do. 

Over the next couple of weeks, we will be posting a series of interviews with inspirational women across the Public Affairs industry, discussing their careers and their experiences so far, how we can make the industry more inclusive, welcoming and progressive – for both men and women – as well as their predictions for the year ahead in politics. 

This week, we spoke to Sarina Kiayani, Senior Public Affairs Officer at Dogs Trust.


Sarina Kiayani is a Senior Public Affairs Officer at Dogs Trust. She has previously worked in agency at FleishmanHillard and Dentons Global Advisors. She is an advocate of women’s issues and is currently Women’s Officer of Young Labour, Membership and Recruitment Lead of Labour in Communications and Social Media Officer of the London Young Fabians. 

What attracted you to a career in public affairs?
I was always very interested in politics, having studied it at A-Level and university. When I graduated, I knew that I wanted to work in politics but not for a particular party, so that’s how I ended up drawn to Public Affairs. It was actually an internship at Grayling in my second year of university that made me decide to work in Public Affairs!

What advice would you give to women who want a career public affairs?
Joining networking groups, such as Women in Public Affairs, and attending their events is a great way of speaking to people in the sector to get advice on tips on applications. It’s also good to build your own political profile, such as through attending events run by political organisations and writing blogs, and to keep up with the news and key events like the Budget.

What has been your career highlight to date? 
Working with Carolyn Harris MP as part of the Menopause APPG to successfully lobby the Government to cut the cost of HRT prescriptions for those going through menopause. Menopause affects 50% of the population, with many suffering adverse side effects and unable to access sufficient treatment due to high costs. Because of Carolyn and her amazing activism, access to menopause treatment has now become fairer and more open to those on lower incomes.

What are your predictions for the coming year in politics?
The Government has been flagging in the polls for a while, so I think we will see them trying to retain their voter base as much as possible – the immigration announcements are just the start of this. The content of the recent Budget was another indicator of this, but I expect there to be more of a wider focus on driving up economic productivity and keeping closer ties to businesses through regular engagement to avoid losing their support – which is good for Public Affairs professionals, I guess!

How can the public affairs industry deliver gender equity?
Producing surveys and action plans to identify where there are gaps in organisations on gender parity, and how this can be addressed. Also profiling women in the industry, through blogs and knowledge-sharing events. 

Grayling Analysis: The Windsor Framework

  |   By  |  0 Comments

2,440 days since the UK voted to leave the European Union, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the much anticipated “Windsor Framework” – an agreement which looks to reset the UK/EU trading relationship, underpin the integrity of the European Single Market and crucially, answer the concerns of unionists around a border in the Irish Sea which held back the resumption of power-sharing at Stormont.

Today’s announcement will be hailed in the UK as a political victory for a Prime Minister under pressure. Rishi Sunak has accomplished something which eluded his immediate predecessors – reaching a new agreement without the need to unilaterally break international law, whilst resetting UK/EU relations in the process.

The framework has already received praise from various quarters, with Irish Tánaiste and Foreign Minister Micheál Martin TD calling it “very welcome”, while Northern Ireland Minister and staunch Brexiteer Steve Baker MP said the agreement is “great news.” Downing Street will be hoping that détente with the EU on the Northern Ireland Protocol will unlock progress in other areas, including scientific research funding, co-operation with France on cross-Channel migration and further action to support Ukraine.

The prospect of agreement is also likely to significantly improve the UK’s relationship with the United States at a critical time for trade negotiations, with President Joe Biden having repeatedly stressed that any efforts from the UK Government to unilaterally amend the Northern Ireland Protocol would not create a conducive environment for a trade deal. The long-rumored state visit of the President to the UK and Ireland in early April, timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Belfast-Good Friday Agreement, is now more possible.

While a political victory is in sight for the Prime Minister, the deal must pass through both the UK and European Parliaments. All eyes now are focused on the Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) assessment of the deal, and whether the new framework does enough to assuage its concerns around Northern Ireland’s place within the UK. The DUP has publicly set out seven tests against which it will measure any deal, and its decision making may be affected by issues closer to home, including the potential of it being outflanked to the right by smaller unionist parties in upcoming council elections and the prospect of a DUP Deputy First Minister serving with a Sinn Féin First Minister in Stormont for the first time if power-sharing is restored.

Ultimately, a new framework which unites Brussels, London and Dublin is central to the Prime Minister’s attempt to be seen as the details-driven leader his predecessors failed to be. And with business leaders uniting in praise over his efforts to usher in a new era of stability and certainty, Rishi Sunak may look back on the Windsor Framework as the moment which cemented his place as the leader who finally put to bed the recurring nightmare which haunted Cameron, May, Johnson and Truss – by getting Brexit done.

Executive Summary of Key Announcements

Red Lanes & Green Lanes
Goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain, that are destined to stay within Northern Ireland, can use a “Green Lane” that requires minimal customs checks. Goods moving through Northern Ireland to enter the EU Single Market will still be required to use a “Red Lane” involving significant checks.

Governance & The ECG
Large amounts of EU law have been removed from applying in Northern Ireland, reducing the role of the European Courts of Justice (ECJ). Rules in significant areas will therefore be interpreted primarily by Northern Irish and British courts.

VAT, State Aid & Excise
These taxation and spending powers were limited in the original Protocol, but the new Agreement gives the UK full authority to use them in Northern Ireland without being limited by EU law.

The Stormont Brake
The Agreement described a new mechanism for the Northern Ireland Assembly to prevent EU laws from being applied in Northern Ireland – this “Stormont Brake” will allow MLAs to suspend a piece of legislation if 30 MLAs from two or more parties agree to do so, with EU-UK agreement required to enforce it once the brake has been applied.

New EU-UK Institutions & Structures
The EU and UK have committed to further consultations on areas of law before they are applied to Northern Ireland, with the UK Government committing to consult further with Northern Irish political parties on amendments to the Northern Ireland Act 1998 in order to achieve this.

Northern Ireland has been exempted from EU requirements for new medicines to be approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), ensuring an uninterrupted flow of medicines between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Veterinary medicines have also been safeguarded until the end of 2025.

To discuss how we can help your organisation navigate the complexities of the new agreement, contact our Alan Boyd-Hall, Head of Public Affairs, at

The Securonomics Revolution?  Labour’s redprint for reshaping Britain’s economy

  |   By  |  0 Comments

The year is 2025. Out steps Chancellor Rachel Reeves through the famous door of Number 11 Downing Street – Budget box held proudly aloft – and her trusty team of Labour advisors celebrating the dawn of a new fiscal era. If the current polls are to be believed, it very much could happen.

The former Bank of England economist has enjoyed an impressive road to stardom having been appointed Shadow Chancellor in 2021 following a variety of shadow ministerial posts under Ed Miliband. PPE at Oxford was followd by a successful banking career, and Reeves now stands on the cusp of becoming the UK’s first ever female Chancellor of the Exchequer.

There’s no doubt that under the leadership of Keir Starmer, Labour’s approach to tax and spend has very much deviated from the radical approaches championed by his immediate predecessor. Both Reeves and Starmer have stressed the fiscal limitations which will constrain any future Labour government spending, while in opposition, Reeves’ iron grip in ensuring all policy announcements are fully costed has helped rebuild Labour’s position as a credible government in waiting, whilst also taking the wind out of the sails of the Conservative’s “party of business” moniker.

Under Reeves, Labour have embarked on two core economic missions. The first – and by far most challenging – securing the trust of the British public over control of the public purse. It’s no coincidence that Lisa Nandy, Wes Streeting and other big hitters within the Shadow Cabinet have been unable to unleash bold, expensive policy announcements in their media interviews – the hand of Reeves hovering over their shoulder and the message discipline of fiscal competence running through every vein of Labour policy making. Reeves has learnt the lesson which has scuppered many a Shadow Chancellor – that economic power can only be gained through public trust. And public trust can only be gained through disciplined spending promises.

The second core economic mission which Reeves has sought to drive in partnership with the party Leader is to position Labour’s fiscal priorities around those of the country. Borrowing to fund sustainable infrastructure projects, greater investment in the NHS and reforming the education system are all policy priorities which chime with the party’s core audience – the centre ground. The party hasn’t sought to tie itself in fiscal knots over issues about which it knows the electorate is not concerned – but has married spending priorities with the public consciousness – an approach which Reeves believes will result in electoral success.

Packaging Labour’s economic message into a simple, digestible, and – critically – electable summary however has been Reeves’ Achilles heel. While some may describe her economic position as closely aligned to the New Labour project, Starmer and Reeves have struggled to define their fiscal strategy in quite the same way. Reeves has unveiled that Labour’s economic policy will be branded under the umbrella term “securonomics”, focusing on economic security and the resilience of industry in an uncertain global economy. “It shows how an active, strategic, state will work in harmony with vibrant and open markets” said Reeves in Washington last month, yet for Labour it will be concerning that a rebrand of its economic strategy received limited coverage in the broadsheets, with many journalist being more interested in the Shadow Chancellor’s decision to fly in business class rather than economy.

For securonomics to work, Reeves understands that winning the war on the domestic battlefield is only part of the solution. The trip to Washington to meet with counterparts in the US has underpinned the Shadow Chancellor’s belief that garnering the support of international advocates is essential to persuading the UK electorate that she and Keir Starmer have the credibility for leadership – and that one time worries of capital flight and a crumbling pound under Labour are no longer rooted in political reality.

Yet what of Reeves’ personal appeal? Disappointingly for the Shadow Chancellor, her public popularity has struggled to take off in the way she may have hoped. Current YouGov projections place both her and Jeremy Hunt at 18% on “who would make the best Chancellor” with an enormous 65% of the sample unsure about their preferred choice. It may be unrealistic to expect Reeves to be as embedded in the public psyche as Gordon Brown was in 1997, but to be level pegging with a Chancellor who became infamous for fighting junior doctors, losing a Conservative leadership contest and needed his political life salvaged by Liz Truss, will be a bitter pill to swallow.

Ultimately, Rachel Reeves will be desperate to ensure Labour is not just the party of workers, but the party of enterprise. Partnering with private investors and building bridges with the City have been central to the Shadow Chancellor’s approach – recent roundtables with senior business leaders have not happened by accident. Business must feel a new sense of confidence engaging with Labour under the fiscal stewardship of Reeves – commercial objectives and Labour policy now working in harmony to deliver outcomes, no longer the polarising forces they once were.

If you want to hear more about Labour’s economic policies and what they will mean for your business, please get in touch with our Corporate Affairs Team.

Interview with Madeleine Hallward, Non-Executive Director, Office of Rail & Road

  |   By  |  0 Comments

Inspired by International Women’s Day, at Grayling we wanted to shine a light on the incredible women in the Public Affairs industry and the work they do.

Over the coming weeks, we will be posting a series of interviews with inspirational women across the Public Affairs industry, discussing their careers and their experiences so far, how we can make the industry more inclusive, welcoming and progressive – for both men and women – as well as their predictions for the year ahead in politics. This week, we spoke to Madeleine Hallward, Non-Executive Director of Office of Rail and Road.


Madeleine Hallward is an experienced non-executive director and communications professional working in the public affairs industry for 17 years. Through her career, she has become an expert in internal, external and crisis communications, stakeholder engagement, change management, and media relations. Her previous in-house roles include (Ford, Diageo, Bloomberg, and the Energy Retail Association. She is a persuasive advocate and trusted adviser, with policy expertise, sound judgement and an informed instinct for internal and external networking. She has recently joined the Taylor Bennett reverse mentoring scheme, and is being mentored by the brilliant Samiah Anderson.

What attracted you to a career in public affairs?
I fell into public affairs by accident – I had worked in parliament, which was a really enjoyable year but I didn’t consider it as a career because I was more interested in the PR marketing side of things. I joined Diageo’s graduate scheme and was working in the marketing department when a job came up in the government affairs team. I took it and never looked back.

So whilst it was curiosity that got me here, it’s the variety that has kept me here. This is an industry filled with really smart, social people; there’s so much to keep your brain engaged.

What does International Woman’s Day mean to you?
My relationship with International Women’s Day has changed a lot over the years. In my younger years, I was faintly embarrassed by it and it wasn’t until I married and the question about whether I would change my name came up that I rediscovered my latent feminism.

So I went from faintly embarrassed, to pleased that it prompts conversations, and now frustrated that more than 50 years after the Equal Pay Act, we still don’t have equal pay – in fact, we have a persistent and occasionally growing gender pay gap in the UK, whilst parental leave is still talked about as a female benefit.

So, I’d say that my attitude towards International Women’s Day is that it’s not an excuse to do nothing for the rest of the year. That’s why we need things like the gender pay gap bot @paygapapp, calling out companies who commercialise the day yet continue to have a gender pay gap and an absence of female representation in the board room.

What advice would you give to women who want a career in public affairs?
My advice to women in the profession is what I always say to women in my team: don’t wait to be offered flexibility, seize it as you need it and be the leader that you want to see.

Don’t wait to be asked in a meeting – if you’re invited to a round table, make sure you’re seated at the table. Take the chair, make the point; don’t wait for space, because there probably won’t be one.

What has your career highlight been to date?
There have been lots – I’ve amended primary legislation, I’ve spearheaded successful campaigns. But I think probably, the highlight is that I’m still doing interesting, intellectually challenging work 20 years on – and politics only ever gets more interesting.

What are your predictions for the coming year in politics?
I would hesitate to predict. I always say that actually, general elections and the political cycle shouldn’t really make any difference to the way that public affairs practitioners engage with politicians and with politics. Your engagement should be sufficiently broad and deep to withstand whatever changes there are in the political weather.

So, as you were and expect the unexpected would be my predictions.

How can the public affairs industry deliver on the International Women’s Day theme of embracing gender equity?
As an industry we are a microcosm of the problem, which is that up to about four years into a PR or Public Affairs career, women have a positive pay gap versus their male counterparts. But over the next 15 years or so, getting to the leadership roles, women drop out and there are more women who work part time or who leave the industry all together because they don’t get the flexibility they need and they’re still generally expected to be the caregivers.

As an industry with all these women, we have the ability to take a really good, hard look at what policies are needed. We need parental leave; we don’t need good maternity policy, we need good parental policy. We could be offering that flexibility to practitioners across the board and we shouldn’t be describing our parental leave as industry-leading unless it is offered to both mothers and fathers.

We need to talk about tackling responsibilities more widely. Responsibilities come in many shapes and sizes, and we need to recognise that for every individual work and life is a balance we all have to deal with and that looks different for everybody.

At Grayling, you’re in a particularly good place to start doing that. On the whole, women are so underrepresented at board level, but with both your Global CEO and Global CFO being women, you’ve got real balance at the top and that’s unusual.

Interview with Sophia Greenblat-Tal – Public Affairs Officer, Cancer Research UK

  |   By  |  0 Comments

Inspired by International Women’s Day, at Grayling we wanted to shine a light on the incredible women in the Public Affairs industry and the work they do.

Over the coming weeks, we will be posting a series of interviews with inspirational women across the Public Affairs industry, discussing their careers and their experiences so far, how we can make the industry more inclusive, welcoming and progressive – for both men and women – as well as their predictions for the year ahead in politics. This week, we spoke to Sophia Greenblat-Tal, Public Affairs Officer at Cancer Research UK.


Coming to the UK as an international student in 2016 after having lived in 5 different countries, Sophia began working in public affairs in 2018. In the last 5 years, she has worked on a variety of campaigns, from Brexit to animal rights. She also helped train Conservative Prospective Parliamentary candidates. Recently she joined Cancer Research UK as their Public Affairs Officer, focusing on prevention. She currently works on their Smokefree UK campaign.

What attracted you to a career in public affairs?
I got into public affairs a bit by accident. I had planned to get into Academia, but when I got a part-time role in a public affairs agency, it was very clear that I had found my place. I always wanted to do work that changed the world, or at least my bit of it. I also love people: how different they are, their different stories and why they think the way they do. This job is a lot about listening to people, understanding their motivations and trying to find common ground, so you can get something done, be that for a client or for a cause.

What does IWD mean to you?
Where I come from, International Women’s Day is not just about discussing the issues that affect women. It is about celebrating women and their achievements. We are very lucky that the women who came before us paved the way for us to be able to do what we do. It was only just over a century ago that women in this country first got the vote. International Women’s Day is about celebrating them and celebrating us.

What advice would you give to women who want a career public affairs?
Do it! Not because it is easy, but because it is hard. It is not the boy’s club it once was, but you will encounter adversity. We all do. However, we need people of all perspectives in this field. Bring your own, speak your mind, learn from others and never let anyone make your voice small.

What has been your career highlight to date?
Getting my current job at Cancer Research UK. This job lets me do amazing work for the most amazing cause.

What are your predictions for the coming year in politics?

  • Hopefully no General Elections quite yet, but I do think the Local Elections will be tilted very much in Labour’s favour.
  • The Conservative manifesto will try to appeal to the voters it won in 2019, with token policies for young people like stronger environmental policies.
  • I also expect some unexpected announcement from MPs who are choosing not to stand in 2024.
  • Regardless of who wins the SNP leadership, the SNP’s grip on Scotland will loosen more and more, with Labour rising in the polls.

How can the public affairs industry deliver on IWD theme of embracing gender equity?
Give women female mentors. I find mentorship to be one of the most productive forms of learning and development. Mentorship from other women is even better. They know what it is like to be in your shoes, so they can give better advice.

Renewables take centre stage in Scotland

  |   By  |  0 Comments

The timing could not have been more apt. Just as it was announced that wind turbines had generated more electricity than gas in the UK for the first time, the Scottish and UK renewables and decarbonisation community met at the annual All-Energy Conference in Glasgow last week.

I’ve been attending All-Energy for many years from its early beginnings in Aberdeen. This year’s conference felt larger and busier than many I’ve attended. Was there a new wind in the renewable sector’s sails?

Renewables growth
Certainly, in Scotland, energy and planning policy is being steered in the sector’s favour. The recently adopted National Planning Framework 4 paves the way for onshore renewables, complemented by an onshore energy strategy that envisages a further 12GW of onshore renewables installed capacity – let alone the huge growth in offshore renewables. A new sector deal with the wind sector remains on schedule for early autumn and there is a sense of greater collaboration with the Scottish Government following the publication of the recent consultation on renewable energy, which should be finalised later this year.

The Scottish market looks very open for renewable and decarbonisation technology, with strong interest from overseas investors, as well as home-grown companies. It came as little surprise then that the exhibitor’s hall was brimming this year at All-Energy, with over 200 exhibitors and a buzz of activity throughout the two-day event.

Scottish Government Ministers were also in plentiful supply. As well as the First Minister opening the event, attendees included Energy Minister, Gillian Martin; Transport Minister, Kevin Stewart; Minister for Green Skills, as well as the two Scottish Green Party Ministers. That was in contrast to the UK Government, which had recently reiterated support for gas and oilfield exploration, kept a lower profile.

Yet, while there was general support for the Scottish Government’s support to the wind sector, challenges remain. Major constraints, such as grid access and planning department resources, remain.  Without action to address some of these constraints, the inward flow of investment into the sector ay start to dry up.

The wider decarbonisation agenda
While much of the focus of the event naturally hung on wind, this year much of the buzz was around hydrogen and the potential of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCUS). The First Minister used his opening speech to announce funding to new hydrogen projects across Scotland. Both the First Minister and the Energy Minister urged the UK Government to accelerate the timeline for confirming the Acorn CO2 project, asserting that carbon capture and storage is essential in reducing emissions in difficult to decarbonise industries.

But many wider challenges remain for the Scottish and UK Government. Two issues alone were hot topics for debate – decarbonising transport and housing stock. On the decarbonisation of transport, the challenge for industry to move towards non-fossil fuels was highlighted by hauliers and wholesalers. Heat transition is another difficult area. While the Heat in Buildings Public Engagement Strategy is expected to be published later this year, even the Scottish Government admits it will cost at least £33 billion in investment to transform building stock by 2045.

All-Energy demonstrated the vibrancy of the Scottish renewables market, but also highlighted some of the fractures between the UK and Scottish Governments. Without action to address some of the significant constraints on the Scottish energy market, the renewables revolution may start to falter. And while other technologies are coming through and have strong political backing, the route map to delivery still seems less than clear. The challenge is for industry to make sure that both the UK and Scottish Government can bring further clarity by the time it meets again at the next All-Energy conference.

If you would like to know more about Scotland and the UK’s energy strategy, please contact Ross Laird at

Grayling AcTrend Report: Governments Outrank Parliaments on Legislative Initiative

  |   By  |  0 Comments

Report on legislative changes across the CEE region in 2022
  • Eight CEE countries adopted 1,437 laws in 2022 – a 14% increase compared to pre-pandemic levels
  • On average, almost 50% of laws had a direct impact on businesses

Almost 1,500 laws were adopted by the eight countries in Central and Eastern Europe, as shown by the AcTrend Report conducted by Grayling, the communications and government relations consultancy.

The report analysed legislative changes taking place in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia and Croatia between January 1, 2022 – December 31, 2022.  Romania led in quantitative terms with more than one third (573) of the total number of laws, followed by Poland with 189 acts of primary legislation, Slovakia – 176 and Croatia – 158. At the opposite end are Serbia (60) and Hungary (83).

Compared to the figures from 2013-2017 there has been a 14% increase in the number of laws adopted by CEE countries in 2022. This can be reasoned by the fact that both post-covid recovery and the start of the Ukraine war motivated local legislators to adopt a larger number of acts governing both business and general environment.

The comparison between the number of laws adopted by extraordinary procedures, compared to regular ones, highlight 24.9% of the total number of laws adopted were passed by an extraordinary procedure – this number being higher for acts with direct impact on business (38.95%).

On average, 46.5% of laws had a direct impact on businesses, a result similar to pre-pandemic levels. Almost half of the adopted laws that had direct impact on the businesses covered general business topics (43.85%), while most affected sectors were services (13.59%) and finance (10.3%).

Centralisation of the legislative power into the hands of the Governments was especially noted in the case of legislation impacting businesses, as all analysed countries had less than 20% of acts, with an impact on business submitted by MPs in 2022. In Croatia, Hungary and Serbia none of the acts impacting businesses in previous year were submitted by MPs. Compared to pre-pandemic levels the number of legislative acts with an impact on business submitted by MPs halved in 2022.

The complete Grayling AcTrend 2022 report, with detailed information about number of laws adopted in specific countries, sectoral distribution and other relevant local specifics may be found here.

MiCA: A critical juncture in the EU-UK crypto race

  |   By  |  0 Comments

A cemented EU position on crypto

Last week, the EU Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour on the final wording of the Markets in Crypto Assets Bill (MiCA), with 517 supportive votes to a mere 38 against. Initially touted by the European Commission in 2020, the new legislation represents a global first in comprehensive measures aimed at regulating the cryptocurrency sector.

Primarily, the Bill impose a range of requirements on crypto providers, traders and token issuers in an attempt to reduce the risk associated with purchasing and exchanging digital tokens. This includes introducing new obligations around alerting potential investors to the risks associated with their services and entering into written agreements with clients. The majority of MiCA provisions will apply in just over twelve months’ time to provide industry with sufficient breathing room to adapt and demonstrate compliance. At that point, crypto platforms, traders and token issuers will face a series of fresh transparency, supervision of transactions, authorisations and disclosure requirements.

Under the Bill, the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) will receive powers to intervene or prohibit the continued activity of crypto providers if there is evidence to suggest they are not protecting investors, or that they are posing a threat to financial stability and market integrity. We can expect ESMA to publish secondary legislation that stems from MiCA in due course.

In the same week, European lawmakers also voted in favour of the Transfer of Funds regulation, which will introduce fresh stipulations on crypto providers to demonstrate customer identification in an attempt to pull the plug on money laundering.

The view from the UK

But what do latest developments mean for UK audiences? In the wake of the approval of MiCA, crypto players currently operating in the EU have been awarded greater levels of clarity by the European Parliament as to the shape that regulation will take moving forwards. The US and UK now find themselves playing catch up, as incoming EU regulations provide transparency and credibility to the sector at a time when it needs it most. The sector has been quick to welcome such clarity, with Ian Taylor, Chief Executive of CryptoUK, suggesting that MiCA “puts significant jurisdictional pressure” on the US and Britain to pass their own frameworks.

Despite legislation currently going through the UK Parliament to regulate the sector, namely via the Financial Services and Markets Bill (FSMB), the signing of legislation at the EU level has cast doubt over the ability of UK policymakers to lead from the front, calling the UK’s long-heralded place on the global crypto stage into question. Indeed, former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, has cautioned that the latest step taken by the EU to bring in a robust regulatory framework for cryptocurrency could eclipse UK efforts to become a ‘global crypto hub’.

Historically, the UK Government has been keen to use the financial services sector to demonstrate post-Brexit dividends, heralding its newfound freedoms as a major win for industry and indeed the UK economy. Against that backdrop, the EU’s new offer of a more attractive environment for financial services firms to operate, grounded in an understanding of the specific regulations to expect, will be a particularly painful blow to the UK Government.

While industry voices have praised the EU for striking the right balance between freedom and restriction under the new package of measures, on the face of it, the significance of developments in the EU have not infiltrated the mainstream parliamentary or media debate, with no mention of MiCA in the past week by UK parliamentarians on Twitter and relatively limited coverage in the UK broadsheet papers. As the City Minister, Andrew Griffith MP, continues his heavy engagement programme with stakeholders on the issue and the FSMB prepares to enter its Report Stage in the House of Lords, UK policymakers working on crypto regulation appear to have met their match in their EU counterparts.

If you would like to understand more about the political and regulatory landscape in relation to crypto and the wider financial services sector, please contact Celia Clark at