A Party Conference Round-up: News, views, and mews…

7 Oct

The annual party conference merry-go round has stopped turning for another year. All the lobbyists have gone home, and the “party faithful”, whoever they are, have gone back to their constituencies either with delight or disillusionment, depending on what they thought of their respective leader’s speech.

This year’s party conferences were never going to be a hotbed of excitement, a crucible of bold policies, or a scene of high drama. The most exciting thing to happen was a dispute over a cat. Being years away from an election also doesn’t help. Chuck in to the mix an extremely gloomy economic outlook, and big news stories such as the eurozone meltdown, the release of Amanda Knox, and the sad death of Steve Jobs competing for column inches and you would almost be forgiven for thinking that there was nothing out of the ordinary going on at all in Birmingham, Manchester or Liverpool.

Despite the apparent lack of drama, party conferences are still an essential ritual for those in the public affairs world. For one thing, conferences are pretty much the only occasions when everyone a lobbyist could possibly want to talk to is in one place. Not just MPs, ministers and shadow ministers, but other lobbyists too.  In short, it’s a great chance to catch up with everyone and get things done.

This year, we at PCG held fringe events at all three party conferences, raising awareness of our key issues. We were pleased to have the Minister for Employment, Ed Davey, speaking at our Liberal Democrat fringe. At Labour, the impressive then Shadow Small Business Minister Chuka Umunna spoke at our event.  Mr Umunna has now been promoted to Shadow Business Secretary (I suspect there is no connection between the two events).  At the Conservative Party Conference we held a special fringe on the issue of security clearance for freelancers, with Professor Anthony Glees of the University of Buckingham Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies our very special guest.  Holding these events was a great opportunity to build relationships with decision makers and other interested groups. It also gave us a chance to make freelance issues known to a wider audience.

Party conferences may not seem the most exciting of events to many people, but they will always be extremely useful to us in the public affairs world. Where else can you have a quick chat with a Minister or Shadow Minister in the morning, lunch with a key lobbying partner, and in the evening hold an event attracting big names in the Party?  On top of all that you can attend fringe events about issues ranging from taxation to dog ownership.  So, whilst a cat may have been the only thing to make the headlines at the party conferences, for PCG, they provide the purrfect opportunity to do some serious lobbying that shapes the year ahead.

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