Row as AA shuns Tory conference

The Advertising Association has come under fire from its former head of public affairs for shunning this year’s Tory party conference.

The Advertising Association has come under fire from its former

head of public affairs for shunning this year’s Tory party

conference.



While the industry’s prin-cipal lobbying body was wooing Labour

politicians in Brighton this week - with a reception hosted by Dennis

Stevenson, the Pearson chairman, as well as a state-of-the-art

exhibition stand - no AA executives will join the Conservatives

gathering in Blackpool on Monday.



But Jonathan Bullock, a former Tory parliamentary candidate who left the

AA in May, shortly after Labour’s landslide election victory, told

Campaign: ’It will be a tragedy if the excellent relationship built up

over the past few years between the AA and the Conservative Party was

allowed to wither.’



The AA’s committee decided in early summer that it would concentrate its

limited resources on Labour during the party conference season at the

expense of the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.



Andrew Brown, the AA’s director-general, insisted that the executive’s

decision was a one-off, would be reviewed next year and was not because

the association believed the Tories were likely to be a long time in the

political wilderness.



’We know we have to deal with a Labour government for a five-year term

and that it’s important to develop our relationship with the party,’ he

said. ’With the Tories in a process of reorganisation, we didn’t think

we’d get much share of mind.’



However, the AA’s failure to attend the Tory conference comes after two

years of a low-key representation that has been in marked contrast to

its efforts to win friends among Labour.



But Bullock, who was succeeded at the AA this week by Sara Price,

UNICEF’s former parliamentary relations officer, accused the association

of ’taking a very narrow view’. He claimed it spent 75 per cent of its

lobbying resources on Labour when the party was in opposition.



’I’m not saying this because I believe the Conservatives will recover

and be challenging for government at the next election,’ Bullock

said.



’It’s because the opposition, through the select committee system, is in

a perfect position to criticise and review government policy. Even

within the Conservative party there are those who want to crack down on

aspects of advertising they don’t like.’



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