Every year companies spend thousands of pounds attending the political party conferences, with many organisations hosting fringe events or running an exhibition stand to try and raise their profile amongst the MPs and ministers in attendance.
There’s little doubt that sponsoring a fringe event or stand can often get you proximity to the relevant minister or shadow minister, and even a good photo opportunity to show the boss back in the office. If you’re lucky the minister may even use the fringe event as an opportunity to praise some of the work your company has been doing recently.
But it is only a privileged few companies that achieve the holy grail of party conference endorsements – a positive mention in the Prime Minister’s speech. This year the accolades go to Cisco, Facebook, Google, Intel and the Silicon Valley Bank for their investment in the ‘Tech City’ in East London, and JCB for making the “world’s most famous digger” in Staffordshire.
However it wasn’t only the Prime Minister name-checking UK businesses.
With economic uncertainty continuing to dominate the headlines, ministers were falling over themselves to associate the Government with companies choosing to invest in the UK. MHP’s analysis of the conference speeches shows that the most frequently mentioned companies by Conservative and Liberal Democrat spokespeople were Rolls Royce, Marks and Spencer, JCB, Nissan and National Grid – all of which are either investing in manufacturing or R&D in the UK, or have publicly supported a recent government initiative.
As you might expect, companies investing in the UK weren’t mentioned quite as frequently at the Labour party conference, although Ed Miliband did praise Sir John Rose, the former Rolls-Royce chief executive, in his conference speech as the "true face of British business". It is telling to see that the companies mentioned most frequently by Labour were BAe systems, Bombardier and the Sheffield Forgemasters, all of which have announced job losses in recent months.
So there’s a clear trend here for those companies that do want to get some ministerial recognition next year: invest in the UK. And if you invest in manufacturing or technology, all the better. The fact that Sir Anthony Bamford, Chairman of JCB, is a major Conservative party donor may have helped a little bit too.
This blog originally appeared in Total Politics.