The gloves are off and major insurance issues have shot up the political agenda, says Elliot Lane
So who do you vote for? This year's general election will be one of the most difficult for the electorate in history. The turnout could be at an all-time low but the frustration that people, in particular traditional Labour supporters, feel about the fork-tongued Fettes old boy may create unimaginably long queues outside the polling booths.
For the insurance industry, however, this could be the election that actually has policies which affect our industry. Each of the major three parties has decided to take a stand against regulation and the compensation culture. Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems are ready to cut the red-tape, roll back the cost of regulation and attack claims farmers.
The government's fortunes have been bolstered by the Chancellor's unashamedly vote-grabbing Budget. Gordon Brown was never going to tackle the thorny issues of corporation tax and IPT in an election year, so that wasn't surprising. But he is throwing his considerable weight behind the Hampton Review which will see the government, if voted back in, reduce the number of inspections administered by the regulators.
Over the past year, there has been a real appetite by the government to address issues that this industry cares about. The Better Regulation Task Force was set up, according to Westminster gossip, as a result of Tony Blair's daughter's Easter school trip being cancelled last year because the school failed to find adequate insurance cover. Shooting to the top of the Prime Minster's agenda, compensation culture suddenly became a major problem which led Lord Falconer to make his ground-breaking speech at the Insurance Times' Future of Claims seminar last year on claims farmers drinking in the last chance saloon. Cynical it may be but the issue has been raised.
But what of the Opposition? This industry is conservative by nature, with both a small and big 'C', and it is the Tories, in the guise of John Redwood, that have actually created a minister for deregulation. This is a genuine vote winner among most insurers and brokers sick to death of form-filling and fearful of opening their office door to find the dreaded 'arrow' visit.
Redwood has retreated from his view that the FSA should be scrapped, but he is adamant that regulation will be more controlled and far less intrusive.
As for the Lib Dems, sadly the logic is fuzzy. Its Treasury spokesman, Vincent Cable, is anti-regulation and would offer tax incentives to small firms struggling with compliance costs. But he supports the no-win, no-fee model because it still allows the underprivileged access to justice. Not a vote winner in this market.
The line between promises and policies has always been gossamer thin in any government, but 2005 might be the election worth your vote.