Few people anticipated that a general election would take place in June - in what, at the time, was just seven weeks away. Such surprising news understandably caused some concern and nervousness in the channel, with many at the time worrying that the period of uncertainty leading up to the vote would slow down business, like many said happened in the last election just two years ago, and the Brexit referendum last summer.
As with all general elections, a period of so-called purdah is needed in the run-up to the vote, and this year it began on 22 April. During this time, big-ticket projects must be put on hold, in case the incoming government decides that public funds should be directed elsewhere.
Government documents state that "it is customary for ministers to observe discretion in initiating any action of a continuing or long-term character", adding that "decisions on matters of policy, and other issues such as large and/or contentious commercial contracts, on which a new government might be expected to want the opportunity to take a different view from the present government, should be postponed until after the election, provided that such postponement would not be detrimental to the national interest or wasteful of public money."
This process can often cause a headache for the IT channel as big technology frameworks that have been months or years in the making can be paused, causing costly delays.
But with this in mind, one source - who has experience within government IT procurement, as well as on the reseller side - told CRN that the snap election couldn't have come at a better time, regardless of whether it was by luck or judgement.
"I think [the government] have got the timing right," said the source. "From a procurement perspective, it's the best time they could have done it, more by luck than anything. There are more frameworks out already, and customers have just spent a load of money getting rid of their old budgets [from the previous financial year]. The new budgets are probably in discussions now, so April and May is usually a quiet time in public sector spending anyway. So whether it was strategic or not, it's the best time."
The source added that civil servants working in IT procurement are often extremely highly experienced, meaning they know how to handle an election well, having been through many before. However, the fact that this one is out of step with the normal schedule could cause a few hiccups, they said.
"Being a snap election, it would have been a surprise to everyone and they would have had no time to prepare," they said. But the source added that smaller, non-contentious IT deals will be unaffected by the news.
G-Cloud 9 is due to be awarded to suppliers imminently, and the Technology Services 2 framework is well under way. CRN understands that these big-ticket deals will likely not be affected by the election, because they are in motion. Further, the source told CRN that no big IT deals were due to pop up during this period, meaning the timing has worked out well for the channel.
Chris Swani, public sector director at Bytes, told CRN he believes the pre-election period will go smoothly, and said the last general election caused the firm very few issues.
"I am fairly relaxed about it at the moment," he said. "I have no doubt there will be some surprises at the last minute, but until then, we can't cross that bridge, so it's out of our hands.
"We are proactively going out to customers and asking them about the general election, but there are local elections too. There is an assumption [Theresa May] is ahead in the polls, and therefore there will not be much change. When Labour got in the last time years ago… there was an efficiency reform group and public sector spending stopped - we are not anticipating anything like that."
Swani said the firm takes comfort in the fact that purdah is unlikely to affect smaller IT deals, meaning it will be business as usual for the most part.
"There will be people moaning and groaning because they've got to hold fire on some stuff, but there will be lots of other things to be getting on with," he said.
Regardless of whether or not big-ticket IT deals will be put on hold, many IT resellers fear that the general uncertainty about the future of the UK government, and possible implications for Brexit, could cause customers across the board - not just in the public sector - to cool off on spending too much.
Lawrence Jones, CEO of UKFast, told CRN that uncertainty is always bad news.
"Uncertainty is not good for business; businesses need stability and to know where they are going," he said.
He added that when it came to the Brexit vote, customers slowed down their purchasing plans in the build-up.
"It was almost irrelevant if we were in or out with Brexit," he said. "The moment the decision happened, UKFast figures flew in the right direction. Everyone had been sitting on their hands and afterwards they were all saying the same thing: 'as soon as we knew, we had confidence'. So I think it's good that it's a snap election and it will be done and dusted by June."
In a poll conducted by CRN about the snap election, 36 per cent of respondents said the election will definitely slow things down, with another fifth (21 per cent) claiming that although they think it will cause problems, it will be worth it to secure a good Brexit deal. Some 40 per cent said it will be business as usual, and just three per cent said the election will have no impact on business.
Julian David, CEO of TechUK, urged the tech industry to ensure that the digital economy stays at the top of the new government's agenda, whatever form it takes.
"This election comes at an extraordinarily important time for the UK's digital economy," he said. "Tech businesses will be looking to the UK's political parties to set out clear plans for how they intend to support economic stability and to keep the UK at the forefront of global technological innovation and digitisation.
"Global technological innovation will bring huge changes over the next five years. The UK has the opportunity to be at the forefront of that change, driving and shaping the future in a way that works for all its citizens right across the UK. The next government must harness the positive potential that tech can bring to people and communities across the UK."
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