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Beeside the seaside

Over the last few weeks, Iíve been pretty busy and a little bit stressed because we held some pension fringe meetings at the Labour and Conservative Party conferences in Blackpool and Bournemouth. Donít get me wrong, itís nice to go to the seaside and I love speaking about pensions whenever and wherever, that wasnít the problem. The one thing with the party conferences is that the security surrounding them is, as you would imagine, pretty tight and thereís no way you can go anywhere or do anything at a conference without proper documentation and accreditation. You need to be checked out thoroughly by the police before theyíll let you anywhere near.

The smart way of doing this is to fill in all the various forms and documentation well in advance of the conference, all the counter-signed photographs and character references from important people, to give the authorities plenty of time to get their checking done. This seems to be what most of the other people attending conference did as evidenced by the trendy little passes they all had hanging around their necks with their photos and bar-coded life information so that the computer system at the only door into the place could recognise them.

I didnít have a pass for the Conservative Party conference because of some mix-up. I didnít fill the forms in on time, for reasons that are wholly understandable and Iím sure youíd agree with me if I went through it with you, but itís water under the bridge now and itís something Iím trying to put behind me. Just move on, lifeís too short, that sort of thing.

I had thought, what with pensions being so important and everything these days, that I would be able to blag my way in on the day anyway. It was only when I saw Iain Duncan-Smith walking along the street wearing a pass that I realised plan B wasnít going to work. (Or plan Bee, as our political advisers called it, a bit on the sarky side I thought). Anyway they did a great job and got me an emergency pass on the quick and I got in to speak at the fringe meeting after all.

And the meeting was good. We had Julian Brasier on the panel and Peter Lilley and Howard Flight in the audience and we all had a good chat about pensions. Brilliant, just what Iíd had in mind all along. My political fixer, Ralph, said to me afterwards he thought Iíd learned a valuable lesson from the panic beforehand though, and I agreed I had. But not the one he had in mind I think. It all just reaffirmed my faith in fate and that things always work out all right in the end, so donít go around worrying about things all the time.

Steve Bee

First published in Pensions Management, November 2002