As Gordon Brown this week fired the starting gun on the general election, it was the Conservatives who swept to power with a landslide victory at the Insurance Times Hustings event, polling 75% of the ballot. We asked: which party would be best for the general insurance market?
While Treasury Minister Sarah McCarthy-Fry attempted to defend the government’s economic record, shadow financial secretary Mark Hoban crushed her rhetoric in a manner in which only opposition parties can, come election time. “The government has failed not just the financial sector, but the entire economy,” he declared, much to the approval of the audience. Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Lord Newby attacked Hoban for the Tory’s plans to replace the current system of financial regulation, as well as its proposed spending cuts.
But it took a broker in the audience to bring the debate straight back to the spirit of the event. “How will the parties reduce the regulatory burden on intermediaries, large and small?” he asked.
Depressingly, the politicians’ answers were not as compelling. They were able to dance through the many insurer issues, such as solvency requirements, claims farmers, global regulation and the tax considerations hindering London’s fight to continue to be a competitive global business centre. But all three were less clear on the need for a reduction of bureaucracy and the introduction of incentives for the many smaller businesses that form the life-blood of their constituency communities. And that’s despite Hoban’s rabble-rousing revelation that he used to audit insurance brokers in a former life at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The debate will intensify over the next month with the economy up front and centre on the front benches, alongside the personality-led tittle-tattle. But it will be the views of the big business lobby in the City that will surely turn the tide against Labour.
And don’t forget, in the same way that the choices of Basildon and Pontefract will be closely monitored on polling night, it will be the outspoken views of your average small broker in the regions who need the economy brought back to growth who could make the difference on 6 May. IT