Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Birmingham Experience

Just back from the Conservative Party Conference, hosted by Birmingham for the first time in 75 years. No doubt different views will be expressed but I thought the venue was a huge improvement on previous seaside experiences. I had the best hotel room ever at a party conference (admittedly the standard is usually poor), which is important when you are speaking at meetings and networking. Being fresh and alert is vital and a clean, comfortable room is a big help.

The conference centre and hotel were confusing, but this is to be expected at a new venue. I got lost around the Bournemouth ICC at my first conference and the Blackpool Winter Gardens were always a maze. The hall was too small for many of the debates, so I hope we can use the larger Symphony Hall when we return in two years (this room was used for Cameron's address).

London Assembly Conservatives' Fringe Meeting

We hosted a lunchtime 'meet London Influentials' event which was very well attended, with two full sessions and a queue out of the door. The 'influentials' were mostly AMs but we also had blogger Guido Fawkes as a special guest. The format was based on speed dating where - I'm told - small groups get four minutes to question their guest before a whistle blows and the guests move to new groups. The atmosphere was lively and exciting, so expect to see this format used more widely in future. It really made a difference from all the 'sit, listen to speeches, and ask questions' meetings taking place elsewhere. Many thanks to Canary Wharf who sponsored our event.

Thames Gateway

I spoke at a lunchtime session on the Thames Gateway, alongside shadow minister Stewart Jackson MP, Lorraine Baldry and Theo Steel. Stewart caused some alarm when he said that spending on gateway projects needed to be audited for value by an incoming Conservative government, but in the current financial straits he is absolutely right. Every penny will need to be accounted for to ensure a return, and what a shame that it takes a financial crisis to restore what should be basic fiscal discipline.

I got a hard time over the 'Boris Island' airport study, which is attracting opposition from Kent and Essex authorities even before it is off the drawing board. Clearly the views of local people will need to figure strongly in any research which is done on this project.

Resilience and Flooding

I also appeared, alongside shadow resilience minister, Pauline Neville Jones, at a Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) fringe meeting where designing buildings to resist attack was debated. Pauline is an expert on security issues so I stayed away from that topic and discussed the flood threat to London, which I do know a bit about.

The audience were quite technical and there were speakers from the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) and RIBA as well. RIBA are hosting a competition to design a flood resistant home and I'm looking forward to seeing the result of this exercise.

So now it's back to City Hall, with the words of David and Boris ringing in our ears. This party is looking more and more like a government in waiting.


judith said...

I have two incredibly brilliant ideas about homes/flooding, which I am prepared to share with you free of charge.

1. Don't build on flood plains

2. Build homes a metre above ground, on some kind of stilt system, so that water can pass underneath.

Great, eh?

weggis said...

In Holland they are now building homes on floats so the home rises up and down with the water level.

Otherwise known as Boats.