This year’s party conference season marked the start of a long general election campaign. How long that campaign will run, of course, remains unanswered but the dividing lines between the Conservatives and Labour were brought into sharp relief in Manchester and Liverpool. It was even evident in the starkly contrasting weather in the two cities.
The Conservative Party Conference was dominated by uncertainty about the future of HS2 following weeks of speculation. Ahead of the conference, we wrote a letter with the Northern Powerhouse Partnership to the Prime Minister expressing “deep concern over the constant uncertainty that continues to plague the delivery of HS2”. This was signed by more than 80 business leaders in London and the North, generating widespread national media coverage. We continued to make the case for delivering the project as planned in Manchester but ultimately the Prime Minister chose to scrap phase two of the project, while keeping Euston on the table. We are exploring how to positively influence thinking about Euston’s future given the need for private investment.
In an unseasonably warm Liverpool, the Labour Party Conference was a more stage-managed affair with a central focus on getting the country building to drive economic growth. Both the Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and Leader Keir Starmer highlighted the need to reform the planning system to accelerate development in infrastructure and housing. We welcomed the party’s commitment to working with business on these issues. When it comes to housebuilding, we have long argued that London’s green belt should be reviewed to identify sites of little civic value that could be used more effectively for new homes.
This focus on housing tied in to our five-point plan published at the start of these two conferences. It also highlighted other steps to boost growth now and in the long-run – on TfL funding, tax-free shopping for international visitors and childcare reform – which we used to engage with political and industry stakeholders across our activity over the past two weeks.
At our evening reception, which was sponsored by Gatwick Airport and WSP, we welcomed Minister for London, Paul Scully MP, who spoke about his support for restoring tax-free shopping to international visitors and the need to continue making the case for the capital as a global city that benefits the whole UK.
Our roundtable discussion with the Heart of London Business Alliance (HOLBA), and guest speaker Cllr Elizabeth Campbell, Leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea focused on the importance of investment in culture in London and the UK, as well as discussing ways to tackle supply side challenges, the night-time economy, and careers in culture.
Our Chief Executive John Dickie and Deputy Chief Executive Muniya Barua also had the chance to raise the profile of other issues, speaking at panel discussions on London’s prosperity, London as a global city and childcare.
At our evening reception – sponsored by Primera — we heard from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who stressed the importance of working with business and how the capital is the best city in the world to live, work and do business.
We convened another roundtable with HOLBA, with guest speakers Rokhsana Fiaz OBE, Mayor of Newham, and Rachel Blake, PPC for Cities of London and Westminster to discuss the vital role that the cultural sector plays in supporting the UK’s competitiveness.
We also hosted a session with KPMG and Central District Alliance, on the impact of childcare reform to businesses and the labour market. Joanne McCartney AM, Deputy Mayor for Children and Families provided her views at both a London and national level. The meeting offered a chance to discuss the recommendations of a wider report which is being published later in the autumn.
As Mayoral and elections loom, we will continue to engage with the major political parties to make the case for a globally competitive London that works with and for the UK. We will be publishing a manifesto for London early next year to set out our key asks.
For more information on sponsorship opportunities for next year’s party conference programme, please contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.