I was at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham for the first half of the week. I have been very critical of Conference season in the past as it takes up three weeks of the Parliamentary calendar just after the summer break and remains a little bit too corporate. The involvement of business interests and lobbyists is one of the reasons that many resist the move to run the conferences concurrently which I still think would be a more sensible set up. However, what I would say about the Conference is that it offers a unique opportunity to get together with a huge range of representatives from different spheres all in the course of a few days.
One particularly interesting discussion I was involved in was with the mental health charity Rethink. They are contributing to a review of the Mental Health Act which is 35 years old and, they argue, needs updating. In providing groups like that the opportunity to meet up with other experts and policy makers the Conference does provide a useful forum.
Sajid Javid announced some positive new initiatives to tackle illegal drugs and related crime which we are sadly familiar with in Yeovil. New focus will be put on drug users as well as suppliers as much of the demand is being driven by professional people. Drugs destroy lives and the Home Secretary’s message that no illegal drug use will be tolerated is welcome. Consistency of approach is vital in this area.
Inevitably there was a Brexit theme to many of the Conference events. It was interesting and useful to get some economists and trade experts together both in formal events and for the conversations in between. A great deal of what I heard reinforced my view that a free trade deal with the EU is what we must aim for and amend the ‘Chequers’ proposals. The differences in jurisdictions in the island of Ireland can be managed to avoid a so called ‘hard’ border including behind the border administrative processes such as currently used in Rotterdam. Indeed, there are various processes already in use relating to borders around the world that we can learn from rather than focussing on some of the rather inward-looking discussions that take place on the issue. Certainly I was impressed with the energy and positivity that many experts brought to the party Conference and hope that some of that spirit makes it back to Westminster.
The House of Commons returns next week for what is sure to be a very busy session leading up the Christmas. Although it’s good to be getting back to important work there I shall miss being in Somerset so much. As always, if you would like to get in touch, to book an appointment at one of my regular advice surgeries or to let me know your thoughts please do email Marcus.email@example.com or call 01935314321