Paul Flynn MP, Labour member for Newport West, member of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee and trenchant critic of lobbying has contributed to a piece on Total Politics considering whether the political party conferences are ‘just a lobbying bonanza’.
Predictably, Flynn thinks they are, and says so in some enjoyably overblown prose:
“The saintly accept the chore as an inescapable, barely endurable duty. Some find relief in the dulling drug of alcohol as a barrier between their inner sensibilities and the exterior hell’s pageant”
Steady on, Paul.
“The growing infestation of lobbyists and commercial interests prize contact with legislators, and at Manchester last year, my membership of a select committee made me a target for constant stalking by an extreme religious sect with a grievance”
And speaking for those who are rather more positive about party conferences Lib Dem Deputy Leader Simon Hughes MP took the opportunity to highlight the (relative) advantage Lib Dem conference has over Conservative and Labour conference in terms of democratic engagement, suggesting rather hopefully that:
“Lib Dem members openly discussing and then voting at conference really does mean something… when [they] stick their collective necks out the country notices and the Government is forces to change tack”
Speaking for the lobbyists, Tom Wadsworth of Fishburn Hedges suggests that party conference is marmite for the public affairs industry, which accurately captures the wildly different reactions the onset of conference season brings about in those working in public affairs jobs.
Wadsworth also offers some good advice for those attending conference for the first time:
“…embrace the debates and discussions, the rows and the recriminations, the whole jamboree, because whether you’re a card-carrying member, a special adviser, MP, journalist or lobbyist, you ultimately got into all of this because you love and are fascinated by politics. And conference is still the only place where it’s really safe to celebrate your status as an out-and-proud politics geek”
You can read the whole article on Total Politics here.
But what do you think?
Is party conference season an outstanding opportunity to get your message out, or a tired opportunity for think tanks to charge large fees for organising a few speakers and some drinks?
Let us know in the comments!