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The Party Conference Season

On 20/10/15 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

In four weeks, I attended four party conferences. Although tiring, the party conference season provides an invaluable opportunity to meet old friends and new, from both industry and Parliament, and this year they offered very interesting political insight.

The Liberal Democrat Party Conference in Bournemouth was significantly smaller than in previous years though still jam-packed with fringe events. With both current and ex-MPs in attendance, the more intimate affair provided a valuable networking opportunity.

The Labour Conference in Brighton had a very different atmosphere to previous years. I was disappointed that there was little mention of additional support for businesses at the events that I attended, however it was clear that the Opposition is still in the process of shaping its political agenda. I had the opportunity to meet a number of MPs who I will follow up with in due course and hopefully we can help shape some of their policies for the future.

The Conservative Conference was inevitably the most useful, not least because MPs and Ministers can follow up your requests with direct action. Despite the intimidating behaviour by some protesters surrounding the conference, the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group held a very well-attended fringe event. With the national living wage on the horizon, our call to action was for Government to see how they can help us in other ways, particularly with business rates, red tape and of course more help in reducing beer tax. We also promoted the parliamentary Pub Chef Awards at every opportunity and I have arranged follow-up meetings in London as a result.

So finally to Aberdeen and the Scottish National Party conference. The SNP is very keen to support the Scottish economy and therefore business too. They are keen to help community pubs, but there is more work to do, particularly through their study on the pub market which is about to begin. Our film at the reception (which we jointly sponsored with others), promoting the on-trade, was very well received and the party clearly enjoys the growth and diversity of beer produced in Scotland.

I enjoy party conferences because they offer an opportunity to meet and talk informally, but as they are fairly exhausting a few days back in the office to catch up will not go amiss!


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