We Made the Boring, Not Boring: why the Political Party Conference is important

The Political Party Conference season is in full swing. What is this and why should you care?


What is the Party Conference?

Conservative Party Conference

If party conference is Glastonbury for politics, then the leader’s speech is the headline act.

Imagine it as a festival; the Glastonbury of politics.

At a festival, there are loads of bands, poets, theatre makers all vying for your attention. They want you to come to their gig, or support their cause. This is a little similar to a party conference.

Each year in party conference season politicians and party members get together to discuss what the party’s aims and values should be. Businesses and other groups send lobbyists, who attempt to influence the decisions and policies decided at conference.

Whatever you want to get out of party conference, odds are you can find it. There are prayer breakfasts, a running club and different lobbying groups trying to meet politicians. Luke James, parliamentary correspondent at the Morning Star, describes it as a “democratic festival whirlwind”.

“You’ve got people going here there and everywhere, and it’s not just in the conference centre – There’s literally dozens of fringe meetings every day starting at 7.30AM”.

Just don’t expect to see anyone raving. Ed Miliband we’re looking at you.


Tell me how it works?

Green Party Conference "Visual Minutes"

“Visual minutes” at the Green Party conference this spring

Each political party decides what to discuss in difference ways.

Labour has a National Policy Forum, made up of MPs, councillors and trade unions, which creates reports on various issues.

Some these are discussed at conference and go on to form Labour policy. However, party conference is not always where policy is made.

Luke James notes that in the past “a motion is passed at a Labour conference it doesn’t necessary mean it will become policy.” This is because they have very complex policy making process, as reported by the BBC.

When it comes to discussing policy the Green Party took a more artistic approach at their spring conference this year.

Members scrawled “visual minutes” of the issues being covered at conference onto a massive mural. Somehow we can’t imagine the Conservatives following suit. You never know though.


Why is the 2015 Party Conference Season important?

We’ve just had a general election – and the losers need to start planning for the next one.

Party Conference; JD from tv show Scrubs shrugging

Why do I care?

If party conference is Glastonbury for politics, then the leader’s speech is the headline act. The Labour Party and the Lib Dems have new leaders who have to quickly make their mark.

UKIP needs to assert itself as a dominant force before the upcoming EU referendum and the Green Party needs to make the most of its increase in membership.

In Scotland, the SNP needs to set the agenda for the Scottish Parliament elections next year, and many are talking about the possibility of a second Scottish independence referendum. Cor blimey.

Don’t forget the current government, the Conservatives. With a small majority David Cameron needs the backing of his entire party to push through new laws.

After some ham-fisted attacks online over the alleged #piggate scandal, he’ll want to move forward to more important matters – like Europe and the refugee crisis.


Yeah, I’m not a party member or anything – why should I care?

Party Conference: gif of Amy Poehler

Seriously, why?

Though solid policy decisions may not be set at conference, it is important for setting the tone for the various parties; especially important as we have two new leaders for the opposition parties.

Even if you’re not political, you’ll probably have an opinion about what the government and the opposition parties stand for. Therefore conference is really important for getting the party message across to potential voters.

Party Conference in a nutshell;

At a festival you can reinvent yourself. You can let your hair down, try new things and decide who you want to be. Similarly these political party conferences, at the start of a new parliament, are an opportunity for the party leaders to set the agenda for the next 5 years.

Just like a festival, party conference can be exciting and busy – but don’t expect all policy to be decided right this minute.


OK, you got me interested. What now?


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