This year the autumn party conferences took place in person after a break last year, with Labour holding their conference in Brighton, while the Conservatives were in Manchester. The BSA visited both conferences and took part in the CBI’s fringe events as a sponsor.
Labour in Brighton
The vibe at Labour was a combination of reserved and fractious. It was quieter than pre-Covid, although this is to be expected for an Opposition Party mid-way through a Parliament. Labour’s conference speeches contained policy announcements, such as Rachel Reeves’ announcement as Shadow Chancellor of an additional £28bn of capital investment in the UK’s green transition each year of this decade. The fringe events focused on decarbonisation, communities and high streets at Labour.
The CBI hosted an interview with Rachel Reeves on the day of her speech, with Tony Danker, CBI Director-General, and Robin Fieth, BSA Chief Executive, interviewing her about the themes emerging from it. Robin asked about the contribution of mutuals & co-ops to the economy, personal financial resiliency and high streets & housing.
Conservatives in Manchester
The Conservative conference was upbeat and cheerful, and was a busier event than the Labour conference. The fringe also focused on decarbonisation, but levelling up was also incredibly popular. This was particularly important against the backdrop of the newly renamed Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities and the six month secondment of Andy Haldane from the Royal Society of Arts and formerly of the Bank of England to the Department to focus on this topic.
The CBI event was a panel question and answer session with Andrew Griffith MP (PPS to Boris - like a parliamentary secretary - and BEIS’ Net Zero Champion). Robin’s contribution focused on low carbon housing, personal financial resiliency, proportionate regulation and the resiliency of the mutual ownership model
Levelling up looks to be an area of priority for the Government over the next six months in the lead up to the next budget, while decarbonisation is top issue for both parties. This is particularly true for the Government in the run up to COP26. Business has a role to play in delivering the Government’s agenda. For this to happen a good working relationship is needed and a combination of rising costs and other challenges for business may impact the good will and capacity of business to help deliver on these priorities.