When Andrew Marr told delegates at the British Insurance Brokers’ Association 2012 conference that insurers have historically been mistrusted around Westminster, I wondered if he might be about to quote former PM Harold Macmillan by adding; ‘but you’ve never had it so good’.
The BBC political commentator opened his speech to a packed Manchester Central Auditorium today with the suggestion that general insurers might have been unfairly lumped in with the life insurance market in gaining this poor reputation amongst the political class.
In a wide-ranging speech that touched on everything from the debt crisis in Europe to the implications of the ongoing Leveson Inquiry into press standards, Marr appeared keen to demonstrate that power and influence has often been wielded by a select few to the understandable chagrin of many.
However, immediately prior to Marr’s presentation, BIBA Chief Executive Eric Galbraith had delivered a tub-thumping address explaining how the trade body’s lobbying power and press exposure were scaling new heights.
He’s not wrong either: The insurance industry’s strength in successfully lobbying for full deployment of legal cost reform in the UK via the Jackson Recommendations within the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill offers clear evidence in support of Mr Galbraith’s declaration. Similarly, the industry’s collective media management over the issue of rising motor insurance costs, offers ample evidence of its PR muscle where the blame for rising premiums has consistently been laid at the doors of claims management companies and lawyers alone; any mention of complicity by way of 3rd party capture and referral fees paid to and from insurers themselves has effectively watered down to a trickle of insignificant news.
Of course there are issues about which insurers remain frustrated from a lobbying perspective and Mr Galbraith highlighted these also in his speech; most notably a lack of continued investment in flood defences, but broadly speaking 2011 and 2012 has been a period of positive spin for the insurance industry. It has even been insulated from the worst aspects of the Payment Protection Miss-selling scandal, after the country’s largest high street banks donned flak jackets and paid billions in compensation.
And finally, the Prime Minister David Cameron was at Number 1 Lime Street this week to back Lloyd’s of London’s latest long term strategic growth plan ‘Vision 2025’. Now he isn’t the first PM to ingratiate Downing Street to the City, but with comments like the one below, insurers can probably take continued comfort that their agenda will be given an audience around Whitehall for the time being at least.
— Laura F. Molloy (@laurafmolloy) May 14, 2012