Fellowships update: coronavirus and virtual briefings | IPT

Over the past six months we have all entered a new and, in many ways, strange world. Adjustments have been made to the way we conduct our daily lives. There are restrictions on where we should go and when. Businesses have had to reinvent themselves and adjust to survive. The economy and labour market has changed. Possibly forever.

The IPT holds a uniquely valuable position; creating a link between the concerns of businesses, who are facing these rapid demands and the educational needs of parliamentarians. One of the main ways this link is utilised is through the flagship Fellowship programme. The programme, in so-called ‘normal times’, sees parliamentarians go out to industry on a series of placements. The programme is parliamentarian-led and is normally based around a sector or theme. MPs and Peers see first-hand what businesses are making, how they are innovating, and hear where they fit in to the UK’s economic future.

What does coronavirus mean for Fellowships?

Despite the extraordinary challenges posed by coronavirus, we, like so many other organisations, are learning to adapt. As in-person meetings are currently difficult to do right now, the main way to do this with Fellowships is through video calls. This method has its limitations and is not appropriate for sectors where seeing is as valuable as talking. But it does continue to provide open, non-lobbying discourse between businesses and parliamentarians at this critical time.

Though many will touch on the subject, not all briefings are solely about coronavirus. With many of the issues facing businesses before COVID-19 persisting, MPs and Peers, as well as businesses, are keen to continue dialogue on a range of topics.

For example, Carolyn Harris, MP for Swansea East, met with two charities: Working Chance in June and Unlock in August. Both organisations work with people leaving the prison system. She is using her Fellowship to find out more about the lives of women in prison and the opportunities available to them on release.

Also looking at issues outside coronavirus was Alex Sobel MP. Alex, who recently became the Shadow Minister for Tourism and Heritage, met with Octopus Investments in August. As an organisation Octopus, ironically, has many arms. Alex was able to meet with their founder, Chris Hulatt, to hear about their involvement with electric vehicles.

Chris Elmore MP, who represents Ogmore in Wales and is a Shadow Minister in the Scotland Office,  has completed two virtual briefings. One in June with LV= to learn about the insurance sector and the processes they have in place to protect against fraud. His second briefing was in September with Aberdeen Standard where he learnt about their Environmental, Social and Governance investment practices.

Of the Peers enrolled in a Fellowship programme, Baroness Neville Jones continued her Fellowship expanding her considerable expertise in cybersecurity and new technology in an online briefing with new supporters Imagination Technologies. Meanwhile fellow Conservative Peer, Baroness Sater, met virtually with the Advertising Association to follow up on a roundtable she attended before lockdown. The conversation focused on their initiatives to increase digital media outreach amongst young people, specifically teaching them to safely navigate online advertising.