Meet the team - James Martin, Director of Policy

BCC's new Director of Policy, James Martin shares some thoughts after his first week, the highlights, his priorities in the role along with the challenges and opportunities of starting a new job during lockdown.

James Martin, Director of Policy
British Chambers of Commerce

What has been the highlight of your first week with the BCC team?

Two, really. The first is getting to know some of the network Non-Executives, CEOs and members through some of our regular calls. If my job is about anything, it’s about listening to the Chamber Network as much as I can and then advocating to government and others so that key decisions take account of what is actually happening on the ground, in communities across the country.

Second is getting to know the team at the BCC a bit better. Everyone has been so welcoming and is so good at what they do, it’s a privilege to have this role.

I’ve been so impressed with the range of experience, depth of expertise and quality of analysis in both staff and the Chamber Network.

It must be a strange feeling to start a new job during lockdown – what are the challenges and opportunities?

It has been quite a different experience to any other time I’ve started in a new role. Not being in the office makes it a bit more difficult to learn things, which might normally be done over a cup of tea in 5 minutes, and to get to know a new team. There is a challenge around childcare, which with two little children under 5 now at home has made things a bit more complicated. Finally, everyone is moving so fast doing really important things it can be difficult to grasp the policy nuances at pace.

But it has shown how powerful virtual ways of staying in touch, which has meant I’ve been able to learn from the experiences of colleagues in China, Bulgaria, Indonesia and New Zealand. I don’t think there’s any other organisation in the world which can give us all that.

Could you tell us a little about your career to date?

I’m joining after 3 years at the British Retail Consortium, where I led several programmes of policy and campaign work on behalf of retailers, and 12 years before that in Whitehall. As a civil servant I worked on a range of really interesting topics, including reshaping the main ways the courts check that the government has acted lawfully; oversight of the policy, strategy and legislation governing £650 million a year of contentious spending; and the UK’s relations with Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, including the latter’s space programme. People only ever really ask about the Manx mission to the moon……

What are your initial priorities in the role?

In policy terms, as a network we’re going to have to work together around three main things: restarting, rebuilding and renewing our shared economic life following this pandemic: The end of the transition period and future trade relationships. This is where I will be spending most of my time with the network. Beyond those, there are a number of absolutely critical areas, such as the next iteration of the Quarterly Economic Survey (please support your Chamber in this work as it is so vital this quarter).

But I want to get to know as many people round the Chamber Network as I can. I can’t come out to colleagues but will look to find as many virtual opportunities as possible.


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