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Guest Blog - First we take Westminster

Blog by's Editor and first posted on

“We’ve never had a greater position with government.”

So said Michael Hirst, chair of the Business Visits and Events Partnership, speaking to me at a welcome reception ahead of the Business of Events Leadership Forum. And as someone who has been championing the industry in Westminster for as long as he has, he should know.

I grabbed Hirst for a quick chat just after tourism minister John Glen had addressed the great and good of our sector and promised to help them work directly with government to win business.

Glen had mentioned “the need to have more of my ministerial colleagues engaged to get it over the line”, a point that Hirst expanded on.

Hirst said: “Our compatriots do it, and do it well. If it’s a medical conference, where’s Jeremy Hunt? If it’s a science conference, where’s the minister for science?

“What we’re trying to do is identify events we want to go and get and make departments of state own those events relative to their priorities.”

And I must say, the relationship between government and events has never felt as positive as it does right now. To have so many senior figures from the industry meeting with MPs and ministers in the heart of Westminster – well, it was a very encouraging evening, to say the least.

Not only did the tourism minister say all the right things, he also actually sounded like he meant them.

Hirst added: “I think it’s the first time we’ve been able to bring the thought leaders together to get everybody on the same page in terms of promoting Britain as a destination of choice for events.

“It’s a disparate industry, but this is a kickstart to getting senior leaders to what we need to do and how we need to do it.”

It was such a positive evening that not even the sex scandal currently engulfing Parliament or the ongoing disaster zone that is the government’s Brexit strategy could bring the mood down. In fact, Hirst was chipper about Brexit and its implications for the industry.

He said: “In a way, it has worked to our advantage, as through the staging of events we can project ourselves as a vibrant trading nation in the products and services we offer.”

Like I say, lots to be positive about. Long may it continue.