15 November 2019
I was delighted to see my friend Saqib Bhatti win the Conservative Party nomination for the Meriden seat last week, writes Steve Allen.
Saqib has contributed so much to the Chamber of Commerce through the Asian Business Chamber and latterly as president of the Chamber and I wish him luck during the campaign.
As a Chamber, however, we are an apolitical organisation which is why Saqib suggested and we agreed that he should step aside pending the outcome of the election and why as senior vice president I am writing this column.
In the Midlands we have been fortunate to have excellent Members of Parliament from all the main political parties representing our interests in Westminster.
It is important for the Chamber to maintain strong relationships with all our local MPs in order that we can share with them issues that are raised by our members in the business community.
I have certainly valued the meetings that I have been involved in with both government ministers and opposition MPs who have visited us.
It has been particularly rewarding to arrange for some of our members to meet MPs at our roundtable sessions in order that they can make their points directly and see how these have been followed up.
This ably demonstrates the value of the Chamber in promoting what we believe should be priorities for the city-region across government.
But it is not all one way. The Chamber often provides a much-needed bridge between Westminster and our business community. We regularly share intelligence with MPs on the challenges and opportunities facing businesses, research into the regional economy and the impact of major events on business performance. We also help to promote their work in support of local businesses.
During the 2019 campaign, the Chamber will be supporting the British Chambers of Commerce’s Chamber Network Manifesto. This document sets out both our local and national priorities.
High on that agenda is the need to ensure that a chaotic no-deal Brexit is avoided either after the election or in the event that the new Parliament agrees the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement, at the end of the transition period.
But it’s not all about Brexit. The manifesto will proactively champion the strategic importance of HS2 and the role that it will play in building capacity on the road and rail network, support the Chamber’s campaign to make local businesses become more responsible, sustainable and diverse and maximise local economic benefits from the Commonwealth Games and other major investment projects.
This General Election has been described as the most important election in a generation. I hope that whichever party forms the next government that it ends the very challenging conditions that businesses in our city-region have had to operate in.
It is trite but true that uncertainty is bad for business and the Chamber will continue to work with all politicians to ensure that our region is best-placed to navigate the potential challenges ahead.
Steve Allen (pictured) is vice-president of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce
This column was originally published in Birmingham Post, 14 November 2019 edition