Public Affairs: Soap Box - Iain Anderson, director and chief corporate counsel, Cicero Consulting

As the age of austerity bites harder than ever following last week's autumn statement, public affairs must continue to seek out new opportunities.

At first sight,the statement appeared rather doom-laden. Further cutbacks in public expenditure and significantly lower economic projections are creating a very sombre public mood. But for those involved in public policy, this writing has been on the wall since 2008.

The Chancellor's measures may prove to be the defining moment in this Parliament. Quickly followed by the public sector unions strike, the political mood is more polarised than we have seen in a generation. But polarisation creates new opportunities for policymakers - and our sector.

George Osborne has fired the gun on a multi-billion-pound infrastructure investment programme designed to fire up investment in transport, health and education - financed by UK pension funds and by attracting foreign direct investment in the UK.

I am told officials across Whitehall are all brushing up on their Mandarin - and so should public affairs professionals.

This new age also points to the need to operate on a global basis. No longer can UK public affairs focus primarily on the domestic agenda. For those that do will miss out on the opportunities and the wider context of debate. The eurozone crisis is the best example of that.

Back to polarisation - or at least the climate change agenda. The Autumn Statement marked a continued shift away from the Cameroon agenda set out for the past six years.

The environmental lobby - both the third sector and those who are keen to make the UK the centre for green technology - clearly now have a fight on their hands.

Perhaps it is time for some new alliances to grow? A time for some new opportunities for all of us.

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