OPINION: Conference fever is a burning issue

It's conference season once again and old style lobbying appears to be alive and well (if not always completely sober) despite all the talk during the remainder of the year of a new breed of strategic research-based public affairs.

It's conference season once again and old style lobbying appears to be alive and well (if not always completely sober) despite all the talk during the remainder of the year of a new breed of strategic research-based public affairs.

At 1am in the bar of the Grand, far from the restraining influences of Whitehall's army of civil servants, even the most reconstructed lobbyist can be spotted indulging in some very un-PC, champagne-fuelled networking.

And outside of the confines of the security cordon, lobbyists are busily smoozing with a whole raft of special advisers.

How effective this bout of ministerial access proves in the long run is hard to evaluate - and can only be judged by the fact that the lobbying industry turns out in full every year. But surely there must be some mistake?

Isn't this the industry that redefined itself post-Nolan and claimed to no longer rely on this type of junket in order to put its case?

Well, appearances may be deceptive. Because while the various fringe meetings, organised by consultancies, may prove constructive for client companies, a considerable amount of the conference contact building serves little more than the individual political passions of the consultants.

While the party conference season may further the political careers of various ex-Millbankers, and no doubt brings in new business for consultancies, the industry would do well to re-examine its real objectives for the wholesale agency decampment to the coast before the next conference season.



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