Public Affairs: Soap Box - Rory Scanlan, director, Fishburn Hedges

British politics can be brutal. Nowhere is this seen more vividly than when a defeated PM is turfed out of No 10 within hours of the polls closing. In many countries, a change of administration is a more orderly process.

US Presidents have months to prepare for office. In many parliamentary democracies, the transition is measured in days, not hours. There has been much comment on the direction of travel for the Conservatives and, more recently, the ramifications of a hung Parliament. But we have heard little on the practicalities of a transfer of power. In this context, Peter Riddell's work for the Institute for Government is essential reading.

What does the abrupt switchover mean for influencing strategies? Bluntly, if the Tories can form a government, it will be full steam ahead with inexperienced pilots. Effective influencing needs both to interpret and respond to early moves and to inform longer-term plans. For example, with spending commitments for the year already under way, a detailed departmental Spending Review after 2011 will be as significant as an 'emergency' budget. The Tories plan to publish this in the autumn.

It will be important not to 'over-read' the first months of an incoming administration, or to base an entire strategy around these. We should manage the immediate, but play the long game.

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