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ALLIANCE LOSES THE PLOT
Hmmm… Alliance Party Leader David Ford has really lost the plot in engaging with ‘stakeholders and social partners’.
Mr Ford has sent out a ‘Dear Friend’ invite letter (dated 10th September 2009) to a Policy Speed Networking Event. This is to help inform the Alliance Party’s general election manifesto. The event is to take place in the Park Avenue Hotel on Wednesday 14th October 2009. There’s nothing terribly strange about this, except that the letter says that “we [the Alliance Party] and Stratagem, our generous sponsors, would like you or a representative/client to attend”.
Now correct me if I am wrong, but is this not slightly dodgy? A lobbying firm, with its own list of clients, ‘sponsoring’ the formulation of a party manifesto? And they’re charging – yes charging – £30 per person for the privilege of having 15 minutes with ‘MLAs, party officers and senior party staff’. Apparently, this to “to cover costs”!? So what does Stratagem’s generous sponsorship cover?
What is more, Alliance party representatives will ‘take it in turn to visit a table of stakeholders and hear your top policy priorities’. You’re not even getting 15 minutes on your own – there could be 2, 3, 4 or even more different organisations represented at your table.
What sort of political party holds an event in partnership with a lobbying firm and charges for access to what should be a free and open event? And will preferential treatment be given to Stratagem clients? If stakeholders and social partners want something put forward in person to the Alliance Party, they can arrange a meeting with the relevant MLA or party officer.
Does such an event make for good, well thought out and robust policies? Few have a good word to say about the speed dating events held by some of the Assembly committees at Stormont. Arguably, they undervalue the important contribution social partners and others make to the formulation of public policy within our democracy. Maybe this is why ‘no other political party has organised’ such ‘a very special event’.