Party Conference is like the Glastonbury of politics. The leader’s speech is the headline act – an opportunity to send out a message about the parties values and aims to voters, but also to party members.
We explored what goes on behind the scenes, and why this 2015 conference season is so important:
2015 was a good year for the Green Party… up until the general election.
The “Green Surge” saw 13,000 people join the party in just one week. Leader Natalie Bennett scored points by being included in the TV party leader’s debate. The Greens were going mainstream and things seemed to be going so well.
At the general election 3.8% of the public voted for them, their highest share of the vote ever. However, due to our electoral system they only have ONE MP, Caroline Lucas.
If we switched to a system called Proportional Representation the Greens would have 24 MPs rather than one. So it’s no surprise that Natalie Bennett’s conference speech called for change.
She also criticised the government for not doing enough to fight climate change. The Greens just wanna be friends and will campaign to stay within the European Union.
They also got practical, collecting donations for the refugees in Calais, France. Perhaps less talk, more action is the way forwards?
Little mention was made of Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn. Many predict he will move the Labour party to the left of politics… with some similar values to the Green Party. If this happens, will there be much point in the left-wing Green Party?
Caroline Lucas MP seems to be up for joining forces with other parties on certain issues saying “we are stronger when we work together’.
Are the Greens irrelevant? Or will the Green surge continue? You decide.
The UK Independence Party is having a bit of a rough time.
Despite picking up 12.6% of the public vote in the general election, our electoral system means they only have ONE MP. Mega awkward.
This disappointing general election result led to their leader Nigel Farage resigning… only to return a few weeks later.
With the referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union approaching this should be UKIP’s moment. After all, this is why the party was created.
But it seems squabbles within UKIP might spoil things.
Leader Nigel Farage and UKIP’s single MP Douglas Carswell disagree on a major decision. They support different campaigns linked to the European Union referendum, due to happen before the end of 2017.
Farage used Conference to announce his backing for anti-EU group Leave.eu and thinks it should be the official campaign for Britain to leave the EU.
Carswell used to be a Conservative MP, but defected to UKIP. He supports Business For Britain, which hasn’t yet committed to backing an EU exit. Farage has accused Carswell of having “residual loyalty” to his old Tory party. Even more awkward.
Will frenemies Farage and Carswell put aside their differences before the referendum?
AKA the one we’ve all been waiting for.
The Conservative Party are back in government – and for the first time since 1992 have enough parliamentary seats to form a majority. No longer held back by the Liberal Democrats they are free to do as they please… for the next five years at least.
David Cameron’s announcement that he will stand down before 2020 means everyone is wondering who will be next in line for the PM crown. Could it be George Osborne? Or perhaps Boris Johnson or Teresa May?
For now David Cameron looked secure, as he and the Tory big wigs outlined the Tory agenda for the next five years.
Cameron promised to build 200,000 new homes to tackle the housing crisis, to renew Britain’s Trident Nuclear system. He also outlined a more compassionate approach to the prison system, which Michael Gove had introduced the day before.
“We have got to get away from the sterile lock-em-up or let-em-out debate, and get smart about this.
When prisoners are in jail, we have their full attention for months at a time – so let’s treat their problems, educate them, put them to work.”
The infamous Trade Unions Bill, which will make it harder for trade unions to strike, also got a mention at Conference.
Perhaps buoyed by his recent election success Cameron slammed Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn. Miaow.
“My friends – we cannot let that man inflict his security-threatening, terrorist-sympathising, Britain-hating ideology on the country we love.”
Home Secretary Teresa May announced tough new laws on immigration.
“While we must fulfil our moral duty to help people in desperate need, we must also have an immigration system that allows us to control who comes to our country.
Because when immigration is too high, when the pace of change is too fast, it’s impossible to build a cohesive society.”
However, things aren’t all plain sailing. A number of divisions appear in the Tory party. The Conservatives are divided over whether the UK should leave the European Union. The referendum on whether to stay in or get out will take place…at some point…before 2017.
The Conservative conference took place behind a riot fence. Outside the conference venue 60,000 people gathered for an anti-austerity march.
Chief Supt John O'Hare said: "Today around 60,000 people took part in a demonstration and I would like to thank them for their cooperation."
— G M Police (@gmpolice) October 4, 2015
Tory delegates were told in an email not to wear their Conservative passes outside of the secure compound.
Which was a little OTT as most of the protesters took part peacefully. Yet, some of some people focused on some negative behaviour, like spitting and egging. We’re not showing that… as, you know, the majority of the protesters took part in good faith. If you don’t believe us, believe the police;
Ch Supt O'Hare said: "The overwhelming majority of people have exercised their democratic right to protest with dignity and good grace."
— G M Police (@gmpolice) October 4, 2015
Will the Conservatives deliver on their promises? Or are their days in power numbered?
SNP, 15th-17th October 2015
Plaid Cymru, 23rd October-10th November 2015
The Political Party Conference season is in full swing. What is this and why should you care?
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.
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.
We’ve just had a general election – and the losers need to start planning for the next one.
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.
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.