The benefit of living in a democracy is that everyone has a voice. Whatever your position on the EU, the recent referendum proved the power of having the vote. What I have learned though, since being in business, is that although having a vote gives you a voice, sometimes you have to shout a little louder to get your point across. It’s often said that two subjects to avoid at the dinner table are religion and politics, but, when it comes to business, politics should very much be on the menu. In fact, it should be more than just a topic of conversation, but an opportunity to change things for the better that can improve opportunities for entrepreneurs and the workforce. A democracy means business has to have a voice in politics because, although organisations like the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Institute of Directors (IoD) represent the interests of the companies with government, it’s really important for individual firms to paint a picture of what’s happening on the front line and engage politicians where they can. We regularly invite ministers and advisors to Pimlico Plumbers, particularly to discuss the need to create more and better apprenticeships and they are often very grateful for our opinions and experiences. We ve even gone so far as taking a stand at the Conservative Party conference to promote apprenticeships, which we are doing, for the third time, this week in Birmingham. After last year’s Tory conference, where ex-PM David Cameron et al visited our stand to take on our apprentices in a classic plumbing challenge, we re returning to the centre of UK politics to show how important apprenticeships are for businesses and the social mobility of young people. Our stand at the 2015 conference was a hit with delegates, MPs and ministers and did a fantastic job in reinforcing the importance of apprenticeships to the economy, employers and young people. And, in true Pimlico Plumbers” style, 2016’s conference appearance is bigger and better. We ve even produced a life-sized polystyrene reproduction of an iconic Pimlico Plumbers van, which has taken pride of place on the stand. It?ll certainly help drive home the message that vocational training has to be at the heart of our education system and workforce development activities! That said, you don’t always have to build a replica plumbing van to get your point across to politicians. If you have an issue that you want to bring to their attention there are plenty of ways to engage them. From an old fashioned-letter in the post, to an invitation to visit your premises or sharing your views with the media, politicians of all levels, from local councillors to the prime minister want to hear what’s happening in business and are keen to hear about firms” challenges and successes. However, they want to see constructive suggestions to solving issues rather than letters of complaint, so put the effort into considering how the problem you want to speak out on can be solved. Businesses, no matter how small or how infant, should have a voice in politics so the efforts from the streets of the UK can be understood in the corridors of Westminster. That is, after all, a democracy.
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