How many ways can you say I love you? That was the dilemma facing members of the shadow Cabinet when they turned out in force yesterday to cosy up to a hundred or so charity delegates at the Conservative Party third sector summit.
Chief executives body Acevo is staging summits with the three main political parties to find out their plans for charities.
This one was held in Millbank, where Labour masterminded its 1997 election victory. Millbank is now the Conservative HQ and, as Acevo chief executive Stephen Bubb pointed out in his welcome speech, home of our dear Charity Commission. This caused some titters.
Shadow chancellor George Osborne got things going by talking about charities running more services. Shadow Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude then criticised Labour’s ‘initiative-itis’, but with a general election probably just seven weeks away delegates could have really done with a few more details.
In the absence of any new policies or initiatives and with six hours to fill, the speakers resorted to ways of saying how inspiring, professional, passionate, innovative and expert charities were.
The last time the Tories were in power, Dolly the Sheep was being cloned and the closest many Conservatives got to the voluntary sector was opening the annual village fete. Who would have thought then that 13 years later the party’s entire top team, bar its leader, would fill a lecture room overlooking the River Thames with humble charity folk?
The Tories have certainly come a long way, but time hung heavy. Engaging is all very well, but at this stage of the electoral cycle something more conclusive is required.