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Advisers should play the Tory card on the RDR.

I’m not suggesting they seek out David Cameron and bend his ear about the RDR at the Tory conference next week.

Dave is unlikely to make changing the way customer agreed remuneration for intermediary services is calculated the central plank of his manifesto. I doubt it’s a vote winner or even a vote loser for that matter.

But perhaps advisers should make their views known.

After all Gordon Brown may not have fired the starting gun for an election but he has loaded it.

And while it is unlikely that that master of political timing the Prime Minister has got things wrong he just might have.

So lining up all the ifs such as if there’s an election, if there’s a Tory recovery in the polls and if they then win, there is still a chance to influence things.

Would a David Cameron Government change the fraught relationship between Whitehall and financial services and more importantly IFAs? Perhaps or at least it might call a ceasefire.

There could be an opportunity to end the unfriendliness of cold war proportions that has existed between the retail savings, and indeed lending industry, and the Government.

New Labour has always been a strange mixture of left and right. And in many ways Gordon Brown’s Treasury has been even more so. It has continued to favour many free market solutions though it has drawn some red lines too – the NHS being free at point of delivery being the biggest case in point though it didn’t mind private sector help with building hospitals under PFI. Labour was never about to nationalise something on principle except in the breach in the case of Railtrack. But on financial services the Government has often seemed to be a believer in the nostrum that you don’t have to own something to control it. Hence the FSA, the stakeholder price cap, strange interventions in the mortgage market and perhaps even the RDR. Personal accounts are also the result perhaps of Labour’s instincts to bring in compulsory pension saving in the vein of Government knows best but fearing the effects on voters.

The worry for IFAs is that to meet the mixed bag of left and right wing policies which it must be said have had some appeal to the electorate three times in a row, the Conservatives may now be offering their own mixed bag.

It is difficult to say where that leaves advisers.

There is no obvious advocate for advisers, who has the drive and intelligence of Howard Flight, nor the inside track that he used to have. Most advisers would say its about time he was brought back into the fold.

But for the present, advisers must deal with what they have. They cannot be lacking in influence at the grass roots. There has never been a financial themed fringe meeting at a Tory conference that didn’t have a few IFAs at it. Some advisers do a lot of the donkey work at constituency level and several have been and are constituency chairmen and indeed candidates.

But what should those advisers be saying?

The Conservative Party has rebranded and taken much of the obvious ideological heat out of issues where it might chase off the middle ground vote, but it is is still essentially a conservative party.

Definite policies are difficult to discern and were Brown to go to the country and Cameron to triumph he would still be very much an unknown quantity.

Yet his instincts and those Chancellor George Osborne must be more pro business, will doubtless aim to foster less welfare dependence, reduce means-testing, encourage more saving and ease the burden of regulation.

There would definitely be fewer tax u-turns as well which Osborne has railed at in the past.

Although the Conservatives have played along with personal accounts, this half-way house compulsion sits uneasily with them – at least as far as the accounts are currently constituted.

But on the RDR who knows? It can be argued from just about every side.

But this week’s Labour conference saw a Conservative spokesman very rudely and completely legitimately turn up on the conference fringes to make the case for pensioners in broken down occupational schemes getting compensation because of bad Government advice.

If this is the new Conservatives or at least a Conservative party looking likely to make a fist of the next election fight, then the RDR can easily be portrayed as being pro big business against small business and against the consumer interest.

At the very least a Conservative administration might suggest the FSA take a pause for breath.

No-one is suggesting IFAs do an RDR strip in protest on the beachfront in Blackpool and no doubt there are plenty of old hands in Tory politics who are also IFAs who know how to go about these things better than I do.

But you can be sure the formidable advocate and former Conservative minister Angela Knight will be doing the job for the banks as the head of the British Bankers’ Association.

So it is definitely worth advisers having a word. Who knows who will win the next election? The Tory card might turn out to be a two but it might just be an ace if they win the election. It’s a free bet. Advisers should make sure it’s not the banks who are the only ones in the game.

A Conservative victory would give advisers a unique opportunity to be listened to for the first time in a decade.



Policy is priority

No news escaped from the Gleneagles life & pensions summit held last week. This was the event at which Callum McCarthy chose to fire the starting pistol of the retail distribution review last year.


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