Westbourne Communications runs 'wargame' to identify key coalition issues

A public affairs firm has used a 'wargaming' exercise to pinpoint ten decisions that will determine the success or failure of the UK's coalition government.

Coalition cabinet: Uncertain political environment
Coalition cabinet: Uncertain political environment

Westbourne Communications said the simulation was ‘perfectly suited to public aff­airs’ and predicted that more agencies would run similar exercises in future to help clients create business strategies.

The agency, set up in 2009 by former Portland director James Bethell, assembled a panel of political insiders for the exercise last week. Among those taking part were Policy Exchange director Neil O’Brien, The Spectator’s political editor James Forsyth and Gordon Brown’s former pollster Deborah Mattinson.

During the session, held at Westbourne’s HQ, the panel adopted the identities of key political actors on the global stage and were faced with a number of challenging scenarios.

These included trade unions plotting 'fuel protest' scale dissent in 2011, UK GDP shrinking and Nicolas Sarkozy losing the French presidency in 2012, a UK general strike being called in 2013 and brownouts hitting London in 2014.

It was ultimately agreed that there were several key questions facing the coalition before the 2015 election, including:

  • If growth figures are disappointing in early 2011, will George Osborne pre-emptively launch a Plan B growth package with new cuts?
  • If in political trouble, will Cameron break with the coalition and the spirit of nat­ional unity, and instead adopt short-term dividing lines?
  • Should Britain respond to pressure from international economic bodies on issues such as banking reforms, military commitments and European federalism?
  • Will police resources become overstretched and req­uire support, particularly in the run-up to the London 2012 Olympics?
  • Should Britain learn to accept that Iran has become a nuclear power?

Westbourne partner James Frayne said wargaming helped businesses create strategies by bringing together experts to consider how complex patterns of important events will play out.

He added: ‘Public affairs is becoming increasingly complex as traditional networks of power and influence fracture. Wargaming is going to become more common as agencies grapple with this change.

‘This wargame gave us a strong feel for the political and economic climate all businesses must cope with and we’re speaking to a range of businesses about how this affects them.’

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