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Lord Digby Jones Business Lecture - photos, blog and video

On 5th February, at the newly refurbished Belfry Hotel on the outskirts of Birmingham, over 200 directors and non-executives attended the Annual Harvey Nash Business Lecture, with keynote speaker Lord Digby Jones.

See our photos and video interview with Lord Jones.

To set the tone the event was opened by Harvey Nash Director Natalie Whittlesey presenting a few key findings from a micro survey completed by conference attendees. The results painted a scene of positivity within our cross section of the business community; 81% believing the coalition was doing 'a good job' (against 59% in 2012), and 74% believing the 2015 economy was going to get 'even better' (against 50% in 2012). Views on remaining in the EU were equally strong with 95% wanting to remain, though half of that figure 'only with key reforms'. HS2 was a more contentious point with only 54% believing the project 'worthwhile'.

With the temperature of opinion made public Lord Jones took the stage in typically passionate fashion. Buoyed as ever by his pride for West Midlands industry, our audience were treated to a thought provoking overview of what Lord Jones described as a 'crucial 2015 for Britain'. As a cross bench peer Lord Jones is not a member of any of the political parties.

5 key opinions shared by Lord Jones;

  • The 2015 general election will expose why the electoral system is no longer fit for purpose.
    2015 will see the emergence and acknowledgement of minor parties. In the 50s over 90% of voters opted for Labour or Conservative but behaviours are significantly different now. A 'consumer nature' has changed the political landscape meaning the percentage of voters backing Tory or Labour will be closer to 50%, with parties like UKIP gaining popularity.

  • Labour or Conservative? Lord Jones outlined some reasons why each of the main parties may win the general election.

  • Why Labour might win:
    • Labour need just 35% of the vote to form a majority government. As around 30% of voters are already reliably Labour, Ed Miliband just needs to secure those and chase the other 5%. Tories need 42% of the vote, meaning they have to go after far more 'non tory voters'. Bar the post Falklands Thatcher government no government has ever increased their majority in the next election.
    • If the Liberal Democrats voters defect in this election, the typical 'go to' party in the Midlands and North of England will be Labour.
    • UKIP will get votes but probably not many seats. At around 3000 votes in many constituencies the UKIP voters will reduce the Conservative's chances of chasing down the extra votes they need. 'Go to bed with Nigel, wake up with Ed' could well be true.
    • Scotland. The SNP is likely to win in Scotland. If the Conservatives are forced to attempt to form a coalition government the Scottish will not want them in power. Even with other party support the Tories could well not make the numbers they need. Once this happens Labour will get the chance to form a coalition which will be much more palatable for the Scottish people. This could leave us with a government made up of a party that doesn't represent the majority in England and a party that wants independence from England.

  • There are 2 reasons why the Conservatives might win the general Election
    • The economy. People are largely aware that the economy is doing well under coalition government. Whilst people answer opinion polls with their hearts they often vote on Election Day with their wallet.
    • Generally the public aren't inspired by the Labour leadership to sell its vision. Lord Jones expressed that this was not personal opinion but the view of the general public.

  • NHS, EU & Immigration will be key fighting grounds for the 2015 general election.
    • The ageing population and the strain that has on the NHS and other public services will be a key topic. For years politicians have known that we cannot support a population where life pre 18 and post 65 is state paid. Now they have to confront that fact with 1 in 3 females born today living to 100.
    • Immigration laws are out of step with reality. At Triumph where Lord Jones is the Chairman they need skilled engineers and would welcome skilled overseas workers. Many however can't get visas because they are outside of the EU.
    • The EU as a concept is fantastic, but make it a free market. Make the most valuable currency that of knowledge transfer. In Europe we spend more on subsidising agriculture than we do on education. In Germany our taxes are spent on subsidising the growth of crops that are destroyed because they are substandard. That money should be spent educating people across Europe.

  • High speed rail is important, but HS2 needs to change
    Lord Jones is passionate about high speed rail but believes that our high speed rail offering should travel from London to Scotland, starting the project in Scotland to show intent, and should be designed to cut down internal flights with a view to replacing them with flights to Delhi and Beijing.


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By Chris Seel, Director, Harvey Nash
Email: chris.seel@harveynash.com
Linkedin: uk.linkedin.com/in/chrisseel