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Conference season sets out financial services election dividing lines


So, party conference season is over for another year. At last!
Reflecting on the past three weeks, what is clear is that all three parties are already in ‘election mode’.

And if these conferences are anything to go by, all are likely to pursue strategies which are more about appealing to their core vote than reaching across the political divide.
The Lib Dem conference strapline ‘Stronger Economy, Fairer Society’ was tailor made to reassure the party faithful that their role in government is to combine economic discipline with social justice.

The conference was a success for Nick Clegg, who solidified his position as leader and outshone Vince Cable, who sounds increasingly ill at ease with his Conservative coalition partners.

Labour’s conference was a real agenda-setter and there is no doubt Ed Miliband will be pleased with how it went. He needed a good one, and he got it.

The proposed energy price freeze is certainly a bold move and is clearly designed to position Labour as the party “on your side” against large corporate vested interests. He faced a huge backlash from the energy companies, but I don’t think he’ll mind that at all.
The Conservatives were left with a tricky situation of how to respond to Labour’s positioning. David Cameron’s approach was to portray Ed Miliband as anti-business, while the Conservatives are the pro-enterprise party leading Britain in the global race.

The offer of a tax break for married couples and tough action to get the long-term unemployed into work again seem aimed at traditional Conservative voters.
It is difficult to recall a time in recent memory when the dividing lines between the two largest parties have been quite so stark.
From a financial services perspective, the concern must be that while it is energy companies in the firing line today, it could be large financial services’ firms tomorrow.

The ‘cost of living crisis’ narrative could prompt action in areas such as bank fees, insurance premiums and pension charges – which is an issue Labour are already pushing hard.
It was a fascinating conference season. Let’s see what happens next.

Iain Anderson is Cicero Consulting director and chief corporate counsel

Click here for a summary of all the financial services news from the party conferences



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