ENTERTAINING but lacking gravitas was Chief Minister Allan Bell’s verdict on London Mayor Boris Johnson’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference.
Mr Bell attended the conference in Birmingham with Education and Children Minister Tim Crookall MHK, chief secretary Will Greenhow and director of external relations Della Fletcher.
The visit was used to strengthen relations with leading members of the Coalition government and to promote further awareness of the island’s value to the British economy.
Mr Bell said that among delegates, Mr Johnson was considered the ‘star turn’ of the whole conference, with people queuing up an hour in advance to ensure they got a seat.
‘As an entertainer he was an absolute star turn,’ the Chief Minister said.
‘But there is a danger of him turning into a show man. His speech didn’t have a great deal of gravitas.’
He added: ‘I would be very surprised to see him as a serious contender for the leadership of the Tory party somehow.’
They heard Prime Minister David Cameron outline his priorities for the future of the UK economy, welfare and education.
And they listened to keynote speeches by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Education Secretary Michael Gove.
Mr Bell said he held productive discussions with Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Justice, who is responsible for the UK Government’s relationship with the Isle of Man and other Crown Dependencies.
He also met David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, highlighting to him the Isle of Man’s important contribution to the City of London and North West business community.
Mr Bell said: ‘It was particularly useful to talk to Chris Grayling, who is new in post, to discuss a range of issues of mutual importance, and to gain an insight into the UK Treasury’s agenda from David Gauke.
‘I see great potential in strengthening the island’s political and trade relationships in the North West and was able to emphasise in a number of meetings how we can work in partnership to capitalise on new business opportunities.
‘In a wider context, the party conferences provide the right platform to enhance understanding of the island and its positive role within the international community.’
The importance of developing trade links between the Isle of Man and North West region was further explored during talks with Katja Hall, chief policy director at the CBI (Confederation of British Industry), and Chris Cummings, chief executive of The CityUK, the body which promotes the UK financial and professional services industries.
Mr Crookall attended forums focusing on issues such as education, non-formal learning and youth crime, and met Anne Longfield, chief executive of UK charity 4Children which is spearheading an initiative to shape early years and childcare policy.
He said: ‘This was my first experience of a UK party conference and it underlined the importance of being on the ground to promote the island’s political and business interests.
‘On a personal level it was interesting to hear Michael Gove’s views on the current state of education in the UK, and to talk to Anne Longfield about the need to give children the best possible start in life.’
The Isle of Man Government was also represented at the Liberal Democrat and Labour Party autumn conferences.
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Weather for Isle of Man
Thursday 23 May 2013
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