As the new PM embarks on an energetic tour of the country, what does he need to focus on as a priority?

The appointment of any new Prime Minister is inevitably accompanied by the creation of a long list of priorities that the latest resident of 10 Downing Street must address.

Boris Johnson’s list is arguably much longer than most of his predecessors as the nation has seemingly been in a state of limbo for 12 months or more and his appointment has coincided with a number of significant international issues as well as his own domestic challenges.

So, as the nation gets used to having a former host and panellist of a popular, long-running satirical comedy series as the new Prime Minister, what are the key priorities?

One thing is clear, Brexit is not the new PM’s only pressing priority

Paul Groves Paul Groves Editor of Specification magazine

Beyond Brexit?

Obviously, the main issue in his in-tray remains Brexit and the looming October 31 deadline.

Although Parliament itself is now enjoying its five-week summer recess, we are assured that minions are continuing to beaver away in the background.

Yet the prospect of a No Deal looks greater with each passing day.

This has prompted a variety of responses – from the outright glee of hard Brexit supporters to the consternation of the wider business community.

It has led the CBI to issue a survey showing that it does not believe that either the UK or EU are actually sufficiently prepared for a No Deal Brexit.

In fact, it suggests the EU is lagging even further behind us when it comes to preparedness – which is some feat given the inactivity on this side of the English Channel.

Underprepared

Josh Hardie, the CBI’s Deputy-Director General, said: “There is a fresh opportunity to show a new spirit of pragmatism and flexibility. Both sides are underprepared, so it’s in all our interests. It cannot be beyond the wit of the continent’s greatest negotiators to find a way through and agree a deal.”

One thing is clear, Brexit is not the new PM’s only pressing priority but increasingly it is apparent that you cannot isolate it from these other issues and challenges.

The British Chambers of Commerce has managed to restrict this list to 15 challenges – ranging from the obvious issues related directly to Brexit, through to new policies to encourage business investment and growth, improved education and training funding, the immigration conundrum and improved infrastructure.

Don’t forget the climate crisis

There is also the ever-present and increasingly pressing issue of the environment.

Whereas President Trump appears to be waging a one-man fight to Make America Great Again by totally ignoring the environmental issues the planet is facing, it is clear this is something that cannot be consigned to the bin marked “fake news”.

In one of her final acts as PM, Theresa May committed the UK to new environmental goals.

And yet Boris Johnson’s challenge is to not just work to achieve those goals but look beyond them and go further.

Construction product manufacturers have arguably been at the forefront of the drive to become greener and more efficient for a lot longer than many other industries.

The significant steps forward taken by companies like Mitsubishi Electric in recent years – allied to the continuing efforts of the company and many other manufacturers to make progress in developing genuinely sustainable products – needs to be acknowledged by Mr Johnson and his advisors as setting an important benchmark to take the UK forward.

RIBA CEO, Alan Vallance, said: “Boris Johnson has a mammoth task on his hands as soon as he enters No.10. Brexit, climate change and ensuring the UK has a safer, high-quality built environment must be priorities.

"The global climate emergency is the greatest challenge the world has ever faced. With 40% of carbon emissions generated from the built environment, the PM must recognise how vital our profession is to ensure the UK meets the net zero target.”

And what about housing?

You can then throw in the on-going UK housing crisis – the influential Public Accounts Committee of MPs accused the Government of effectively sabotaging its own housebuilding targets in a scathing report shortly before the summer recess – the perceived failure to reform building regulations quickly enough two years on from the Grenfell Tower tragedy, stimulating public sector growth, as well as delivering a proper high-speed rail network, and Mr Johnson’s in-tray is starting to look like it might buckle under the weight of expectation.

Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “The need for a new Prime Minister to get down to business has never been greater.

“Boris Johnson’s first job upon arrival in Downing Street must be to go beyond warm words and take immediate, tangible steps to boost the confidence of UK businesses and consumers.”

In summary

So, where do we go from here? If you are an MP then you obviously go on a five-week break.

However, if you are a new Prime Minister then the answer has to be forward, quickly, decisively and not divisively.

It is a mammoth task facing Boris Johnson and it is one that needs clear direction, not elaborate soundbites.

(Incidentally, I make no apologies for failing to use Esq, not putting a full stop after Mr and making use of the Oxford comma. I was presented with a 200-page style book when I first became a newspaper journalist – not some trifling, irrelevant, single-page missive that is the perfect example of what this new Government should be avoiding).

Paul Groves is editor of Specification magazine