Conservative Conference

Friday 6 October: This week Heart of London attended the Conservative Party Conferences in Manchester.

What did we learn?

The Conservative Party conference was dominated by HS2. After speculation throughout the conference on whether the northern leg would be scrapped, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak used his conference speech to confirm that it would be, with the £36 billion saved used to improve regional transport links instead. It was announced that HS2 would extend to Euston, rather than stopping at Old Oak Common, but it has since been reported that this may not be the case if private funding can’t be found.

He also used his speech to announce a ban on smoking in England and replace A-levels with a new qualification called Advanced British Standard.

Other announcements at the conference include:

The Prime Minister announced funding to ‘change our economic geography away from cities’, with £1.1bn for 55 towns across the UK. Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said that through investing and building in cities and towns there will be a regeneration of communities.

The Chancellor said that business taxes should be cut before personal taxes, but this won’t be able to happen with high inflation, and the priority is to reduce the size of the national debt. He also announced that the National Living Wage will increase to £11 per hour from April 2024.

The Culture Secretary said that the Conservatives want to ‘maximise the potential’ of our creative industries for years to come, saying that her party has supported the success of the cultural and creative sectors through tax reliefs, which has attracted global investment.

Heart of London Activity

We held a breakfast roundtable event on the importance of culture to the UK economy. With the likes of TfL, councillors from Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea, Society of London Theatre, PwC and Walpole, it was a frank discussion about how we can better promote the capital’s cultural offering domestically and internationally to attract visitors and investment. There was consensus that culture is often underappreciated as an economic driver, despite being one of the biggest industries in the UK, and that the levelling up agenda shouldn’t be used to undermine the pull factors of the capital. Better collaborative working is needed between the various organisations that have a role in promoting London, especially as London’s marketing spend is a fraction of its international competitors.

We also heard from or met with Minister for London Paul Scully, Opportunity London, New West End Company, the Society of London Theatre, Westminster Councillors, Michael Ellis MP and Andy Lord from Transport for London.

Lookahead: Labour Conference

The Labour Party will head to Liverpool for its conference with a spring in its step following a resounding win in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, which saw a larger than expected swing of 20.4 per cent. This could have a significant impact on a General Election, with Labour’s path to power potentially coming through a recovery in Scotland.

Over 16,000 attendees are expecting at the conference, with Labour looking to set out its stall in what could be the last conference before a General Election (Spring or Autumn 2024 are seen as the most likely dates for this).

As well as hosting another breakfast roundtable on the importance of culture to the UK economy, we’ll also be hearing from or meeting with Westminster councillors and the prospective parliamentary candidates, the tax-free shopping campaign, the GLA’s cultural team and some of our members.