The place to be at this Conservative Party Conference certainly wasn’t the Main Hall.
This year, the TaxPayers’ Alliance joined with the Institute of Economic Affairs, Business for Britain and the Free Enterprise Group of MPs to host ThinkTent, a hub of open debate and honest opinions. Most events were standing room only, with the ThinkTent even acquiring a permanent detachment of conference security guards who feared that the overcrowding might lead to a fire risk. Many events had to be run on a “one in, one out” basis with queues stretching around the block!
The explanation for the popularity of our well-appointed tent was apparent from the very first event on the European question with the Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP entertaining a packed out crowd, and the quality of the speakers stayed consistently high throughout. One of our security guards confessed that he was very much enjoying his station since he could listen in on what were at times quite heated debates. When asked why they had been queuing for more than half an hour, one delegate told me that our events were the best available.
ThinkTent wasn’t just popular amongst conference delegates but made the front page. John Redwood’s comments on business and politics hit the front page of the Financial Times, and the Morning Star described how the Rt Hon Francis Maude “sucked up” to “fans” of the TaxPayers’ Alliance with comments that he’d like to bring the tax burden down. Journalists were there for more than our excellent wifi connection – they were there for stories.
The response to ThinkTent was overwhelmingly positive and there was plenty of praise for the TaxPayers’ Alliance too. Steve Baker MP praised our 2020 Tax Commission and Conor Burns MP described our ability to hold politicians’ feet to the fire. The highest praise we received however, came from the Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
“The TaxPayers’ Alliance are my favourite organisation,” said the MP for Brentwood and Ongar at our Sunday night reception. “They don’t ask me for grants, and they never will.”
Our kind thanks must go to Mastercard, who sponsored the ThinkTent. The planning for next years starts in earnest now.