PCG at the Party Conferences – a roundup

14 Oct
PCG's George Anastasi

George Anastasi, PCG's Policy and External Relations Adviser

PCG was again privileged to attend all three of the main party conferences this year, with members of its public affairs team, plus Head of Public Affairs Simon McVicker, and Managing Director John Brazier all attending at various points. PCG’s George Anastasi has a roundup of the three main conferences.

Liberal Democrats: Liverpool

The Liberal Democrats kicked off the party conference season in Liverpool, the first time any major party conference has been held in the city. All the main party conferences avoided the coast this year, in efforts to capitalise on the “buzz” of increasingly gentrified and redeveloped cities outside of London.

The Liberal Democrats seemed to welcome the extra attention they were getting at their usually sedate annual conference, their status as a coalition partner attracting large numbers of lobbyists. PCG has been attending the Liberal Democrat conferences regularly for a number of years now, and has cultivated good relations with the party. Last year we encouraged Liberal Democrat MP Lorely Burt to table an Early Day Motion calling for the abolition of IR35.

PCG’s Andy Chamberlain and Simon McVicker attended the Liberal Democrat Conference’s corporate day, which included a programme of events giving a large degree of access to senior party figures. In particular, PCG had the opportunity to hear from Vince Cable on his business policies and on work permits. PCG was also able to talk to Ed Davey MP, Minister of State at the Department for Business. PCG discussed at length the issues of Intra Company Transfer Work Permits, and of the Agency Workers Regulations, which are currently being reviewed.

Labour: Manchester

The Labour Party’s first conference in opposition for a number of years was also the Party’s opportunity to showcase its new leader, Ed Miliband. Ed’s victory was a surprise for many, as the junior of the two brothers only became favourite very late on in the race. Whilst at the conference, I appeared on Radio 5 Live to discuss the issue of ICTs. You can hear the recording on the BBC’s website. (The programme was broadcast live on the 26th September, with the segment on ICTSs beginning about half an hour in)

PCG staff also met with other key stakeholders to discuss this issue, including Unite. Numerous relevant fringes were also attended discussing the future direction of business policy of the party. PCG was able to hear from Phil Woolas MP on the issue of immigration, and from Alistair Darling, the former chancellor.

Interestingly, Ed Miliband’s first speech as Labour leader made reference to the “huge barriers to the wealth creators in this country, particularly small businesses and the self-employed.”. Following the Conference, Stephen Timms MP remained a Shadow Minister under Ed Miliband, having formerly served as a Cabinet Minister in Gordon Brown’s Government. PCG met Mr Timms shortly before the May 2010 General Election to discuss IR35.

Conservatives: Birmingham

England’s second largest city played  host to the Conservatives this year, with a large delegation from PCG attending to meet as  many minsters, MPs, and key stakeholders as possible. PCG’s Head of Public Affairs Simon McVicker, and Managing Director John Brazier attended the conference’s corporate day, and heard from the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and from Cabinet ministers including George Osborne.

PCG was also able to hear from Mark Prisk, Minister of State at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Mr Prisk highlighted the Government’s ongoing efforts to seek a fair replacement to the IR35 legislation, via the Office of Tax Simplification. Mr Prisk had mentioned this in a letter to PCG prior to the General Election in May 2010. PCG also met with numerous MPs, and organisations including FSB and REC.

All three conferences provide invaluable opportunities for PCG to spread its message. Sympathetic minsters, shadow ministers, MPs, and representatives from other organisations were all spoken to. Whilst at times exhausting, and others, exciting, Party Conferences are above all else, vital platforms for PCG to truly act as “the voice of freelancing”

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