NEW HORIZONS – CCTA PUBLIC AFFAIRS

Public Affairs | 11/03/20

Our conference this year is the tenth time I have had the privilege to stand before members to deliver an address as the CEO. I do not believe that there has ever been a more important meeting, or time for this event. Last year we focused on major changes and disruption, celebrating how the industry has coped with ongoing excessive regulation and market interference, we hoped that by the end of 2019 we would see clarity and sensibility returning. However that has not transpired, and the industry is more at risk than ever before. 

‘Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party’, sounds a very sage comment, it was actually a phrase developed as a typing test by Charles E. Weller in 1867. The phrase has a modern day ring about it as we see angst, distrust, chaos, and confusion in most places, and especially in high office. I find it amazing that we have progressed so far with technology, labour saving devices, and modern media solutions but have actually moved backwards with basic human relationships. Texting and social media is not causing, but certainly assisting in, the destruction of the art of debate and relationship building.

Brexit – where are we now?

I was going to avoid the word Brexit in this article, but it is so demonstrative of the lack of clear communication, proper debate, true collaborative desire, and good manners. The spectacle that we are seeing and reading repeatedly, is of single focus tribes and mini-tribes fighting battles that suit their cause, leaving the man in the street completely perplexed, and for many, unlikely to vote. Nero fiddles while Rome burns is a very apt phrase, for the current messy position that Brexit is in.

I have a variety of cohorts that I consult with regard to modern communications, reading habits, and information gathering. My favourite is my grandchildren, they pull no punches even with their grandad. I have nine grandchildren with ages from eight to 21. Needless to say the eight year old, sees it as ‘grandad talk‘, and disappears within two to three minutes. The cohort is misrepresentative from a gender perspective, as I have eight granddaughters. I have been running this cohort, almost as long as Brexit, around three years. Spookily, three of them will be able to vote at the next general election. 

I believe that all of my grandchildren will go to university, with three already there. Currently none of the children read newspapers, with three of the four households not having one delivered, or bought. Most do not sit down to watch, or listen to the news, instead relying on social media, or news links on their mobile devices. None watch any of the political or investigative programmes. They would all be deemed to be middle class, all go to top performing schools, and all are white caucasian. They are all bright, good communicators, with strong beliefs and values, well mannered, and care about less fortunate people. Most have strong views, they see politics as boring, antiquated and of little or no value.

Brexit does have one positive, it has shone a powerful light on modern day politics. The phrase ‘male, pale and stale‘, denoting the ‘old school tie approach‘ to constituents, demonstrates the hurdle that Parliament and it’s representatives have to overcome if we are to navigate the new order. That term was used by Ayesha Hazarika in the London Evening Standard in June 2018 denoting the fact that Westminster was still dominated by male ‘ranty-pants‘ who have got us into this mess (despite the PM being female), and that politics need more women to address the situation.

Remember a poll is only an intention at a period of time!

Theresa May MP, completely misjudged constituent’s views and beliefs when she went to the country in 2017 to improve her majority, guided by Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, her political advisors. She was expecting a majority between 50 and 100 seats, based on the opinion polls. Instead she was finally reliant on the Democratic Unionist Party to keep her majority, an unholy alliance based purely on need. From that time on Brexit floundered.

In September 2016, I attended a Labour rally to hear Jeremy Corbyn at the Forest Recreation Ground in Nottingham. It was a well-attended rally of probably 600 to 800 people. I went to try to understand why Corbyn has such a fervent following, believing it to be the simplicity of the message and the man. I mingled with the crowd before the speech and asked the simple question, ‘Why are you here today?’ The majority of replies were, ‘most politicians are not in touch with constituents, they are too old, they are not like us, they are elitist, they are only there to feather their own nest‘. I was targeting both men and women who looked under the age of 35, and there were many students from Nottingham University who would have been first time voters in 2017.

Bearing in mind that was three years ago and before the shenanigans over the last three years. I can only believe that their thoughts will have crystallised further,
and they will be all entitled to vote. That does not mean necessarily having all the facts to enable a well-balanced thought process. 

I struggled at the time with the findings being presented by the pollsters, which were completely at odds with comments being made to me from a cross section of people, from that date to the general election. Do I believe that there has been any change since the 2017 election? Yes, there have been multiple changes as both the council elections and recent by-elections have seen the rise of votes for the Brexit Party. The Liberal Democrats have become a staunch remain party, the Scottish National Party have been revitalised. The Conservatives in Scotland have lost their General with the resignation of Ruth Davidson, MP.

We saw tactical voting in the May 2019 by-election, and other by-elections since are creating problems that will be evident in the next general election. In my humble opinion the result of the general election will be a coalition government, which I do not believe will be as compliant as the Cameron/Clegg coalition government.

What is the importance of the above to our members?

The importance of having a properly functioning parliament is that there would bemeaningful scrutiny and debate in order to ratify new laws and regulation. Government bodies can be brought to account by the Parliamentary Select Committees but over the last three years, Brexit has dominated the corridors of power. 

As I write this article the Prime Minister and the Government are in the dock of the Supreme Court of Justice facing constitutional charges over the proroguing of Parliament. European Parliamentarians look on aghast at the ongoing circus of Brexit.

PROTECT ACCESS TO RESPONSIBLE CREDIT (PARC) CAMPAIGN

End of the beginning?

The full Winston Churchill quotation is: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is perhaps the end of the beginning”. We have reached the end of the majority of the FCA regulatory round, although we are still awaiting the final parts of Senior Managers Certification Regime (SMCR). I believe it is fair to say that we approaching the end of a cycle, but members would be well advised to check and double check that they do everything that they have stated ‘on their tin’. 

The regulator is now doing what they say ‘on their tin’, checking the conduct of firms for total compliance on the leadership, human resources, and financial integrity. They expect to see firms exercising a rigour for the soft issues as well as the legalities, they will be harsh on firms that do not have appropriate controls and systems in those areas.

What do we do next?

You can probably imagine the problems that we have had to gain reasonable airtime with MP’s, government officials, and special advisors during the Brexit process.
All sectors have struggled to effectively lobby politicians with internecine war taking place in all parties. I have been involved in lobbying since the late 1970’s and cannot remember a time when Parliament has been so prostrate.

The good news is that we are lined up to hit the ground running and tackle Parliament in the autumn. We are forging collaborative relationships with other organisations on challenges to the industry that bind us. CCTA has been at the forefront of challenging the regulator and the Financial Ombudsman Service in the industry press and all other press. We are seen as a go to contributor for the industry.

We have a group of MP’s that see the bigger picture and are positive towards the PARC campaign and with a new parliament we can move the programme along. Unfortunately over the last three years the consumer groups and activists have been ruling the roost with the regulator, with their voice becoming more strident. 

Once a parliament is dissolved all of the other functions are dissolved as well. CCTA have been working closely with the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on alternative lending, as Parliament has been suspended the group dissolves, and a new group is put in place. Thankfully the key players are back, although having swapped roles between the Treasury Select Committee and the Chair of the APPG.

The Broken Society

No one in their right mind can define a way to heal the rifts that have developed over the last three years of Brexit. The old Chinese proverb, and latterly a book, ‘The Fish Rots from the Head‘, rings true, and the healing has got to be a trickle-down effect from the establishment. These kind of rifts can last for years, the miners’ strike 1984 to 1985 is still a feud for families in the old coal belt around the Midlands. 

As already stated, ‘male, pale and stale ‘, is a descriptor of emotional feelings emanating originally from the millennials, but now common usage. Politicians being seen as ‘wise old people’ has to jump a generation or two to let younger people in. It is difficult to see how his will happen immediately in the Conservative Party, as the local association members who select prospective new constituency members are mostly ‘male, pale and stale ‘.

Conference will undertake to look at the big issues in the morning keynote presentation sessions. In the afternoon we will get into the nitty and gritty, with three separate question time sessions on burning topics that you may or may not be aware of.

Conclusion

2020 is going to be another difficult year, we are geared up to fight your corner and we would like more of your help to take the fight to the highest level.

If you only ever attend conference once in a blue moon, there is one scheduled for the 7 November in Nottingham.

See you there.
Greg Stevens
Chief Executive, CCTA