I am going to the Conservative party conference, I am not going to the freak show in Liverpool and I don’t even know when the Liberals are convening.
I have limited time on my hands to understand Government but I want to spend some of it, talking with the people who manager our levers of power. I am a democrat who takes politics and the impact of policy seriously.
The Tories are meeting in Birmingham- which is good. It’s costing me £5.50 (Chiltern Line) to go there and £7.00 (peak time) to come back.
I intend to stay over a couple of nights and will be staying in a 12 bed dormitory in a hostel called Hatters, the cost of my three nights will be £67 which may sound cheap compared with the £1500+ quoted by the Conference Hotels but at over £20 a night would be beyond the budget of many.
I am travelling and staying cheap to keep me a little grounded, but I know – from Manchester last year- that once inside the ring of steel, it will be champagnes and canapes all round.
Why am I going to the Conservative Party Conference?
- I run my own business and help run someone else’s business. Our businesses are at risk from political decisions which I hope to influence for the better.
- Many of my business associates are going – there are networking opportunities.
- I am involved in a number of not-for-profit organisations such as the Transparency Task Force and Friends of Auto-Enrolment whose voice will not otherwise be heard.
- I am genuinely curious about how the Conservative party works.
I will be representing City and Westminster Conservatives, I will be a delegate, I will be expected to support Conservative policy. I have the badge which cost me pretty well nothing.
Frankly I consider this an interesting use of my time and if all else fails, I will have two laptops and my independent wi-fi hot spot.
All the same I am feeling guilty as sin.
It is a sad state of affairs when there is no alternative to the Tories, but at this time there is – realistically – nothing I can do to help Liberals or Labour party change the things that matter to me.
I met with Frank Field in the Street two weeks ago, he had just come from #10 where he had been meeting with Theresa May who is supporting him getting fair working conditions for those working for Hermes (the messengers, not the share activists). I recognised the guilt he felt having to praise a Conservative Prime Minister for championing the rights of poorly paid workers.
It has been Ros Altmann, a Tory peer, who has spoken out against the ineptitude and self-serving nihilism of the Treasury in destroying pension policy over the term of this Government.
On the DWP Select Committee, which I follow, it is Conservative MPs who speak for the people my business serves – the small companies, accountants and the workers who are enrolling or being enrolled.
Those organisations that represent the interests of small businesses in this country will be in Birmingham in force, the Federation of Small Businesses, the various chambers of commerce, the institutes representing accountants, book-keepers and payroll professionals and the service providers – the software suppliers and the pension providers.
I fear that like me, these organisations are only really focussing on the Conservative Party Conference.
These organisations are getting on with generating the wealth and seeing it distributed so it arrives in the hands of the right people at the right time. I too am part of that process.
My vision, like that of William Langland when he wrote of the Dream of Piers Plowman, is of people working harmoniously together. I do not want a financial services industry that serves itself, I want one that reaches out to the 1m new employers taking out workplace and the 800,000 employers who will stage and maybe join them later.
The voice for these employers will not be the lobbyists of the Banks and Fund Managers but the delegates who bother to turn up and hold their politicians to account. I am sick of a financial services industry that represents only the City and Canary Wharf. Though I work in financial services, my job is to restore confidence in pensions not to take the piss.
So I’m going to Birmingham with a smile on my face but in deadly earnest. I will enjoy myself, behave reasonably and ask a lot of questions. I will meet and greet and I will make sure that I return on Thursday with a shed load of new things to think about, write about and do.
If you are reading this and going, please drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 07785 377768.