Public Affairs: Introduction - The new political landscape

As Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) fever reached a climax earlier this month, a photograph of David Cameron walking side by side with his newly appointed personal military adviser, a colonel in the Royal Marines, appeared in some of the newspapers.

It was a canny move by Number 10, desperate to prove it was conscious of the extremely tricky line the Government walks in making any cuts to the military in a year the Help for Heroes charity achieved such a high profile.

Indeed, MoD cuts are earmarked by the majority of our essay writers as the potentially toughest battle for the Government over the next few months, as the details of the CSR sink in.

The past few months have been a frenzy of lobbying, with everyone from artists to scientists making their case for ring-fencing of their budgets - or, in the case of the activists we follow in the feature on p4, the case for dropping an expensive new transport project that could carve up the countryside. And, as the military photo-op showed, the Government has been actively preparing the ground for the CSR too, using, as Open Road's Martin Le Jeune points out on p23, 'the Liberal Democrats for air-cover'.

Meanwhile, the political landscape is shifting fast, making public affairs a business for those with an experienced eye on the balance of power. Not only has the Government/opposition equation subtly changed - see Hanover's Laura Chisholm's essay on p19 - but with all the changes to local government budgets, councils are set to become large-scale commissioners of keenly priced private contracts, making them a significant PA target, says PLMR's Kevin Craig on p25.

It's been a tough few months for public affairs people, knocked on a virtually weekly business by Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles while often lobbying for the survival of client organisations. But as the reality of sliced-up public budgets hits home, public affairs could get even more interesting.

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