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
Love tennis or not everyone loves the excuse to sit in the sun and drink Pimms*. But did you know Wimbledon is actually just like British Politics?
*other gin based drinks are available 😉
This way. That way. Forwards and backwards. Watch Wimbledon coverage and you’ll see the spectators swinging their heads from side to side following the balls.
Watching the TV election debates or live streams from parliament it can seem a little similar. Politicians bounce ideas and arguments backwards and forth across the House of Commons chamber.
And then the next day they do it all over again.
Sorry, Ed Miliband.
Tim Henman, our thoughts are also with you.
When Andy Murray walks onto centre court at Wimbledon we see a superhuman athlete taking on overwhelming odds and winning (most of the time). What we don’t see are the months of training regimes, diets, sacrifice and general pain that leads to the winning.
It’s just the same in politics. Most MPs spend a few years working their way up from the bottom before making any headway. Proposed new laws like the Snooper’s Charter spend months being researched and written up before another party (in this case the Liberal Democrats) blocked it. But now the Conservatives are back in power, the Snooper’s Charter is back on the agenda.
Just like Civil Servants (who help MPs with work but are not linked to a specific party) Ball Boys and Girls are expected to help play run as smoothly as possible, whilst staying out of the limelight.
“You cannot be serious!” was John McEnroe’s famous cry of outrage. Just like Tennis political debates can get… heated.
More recently Andy Murray got into trouble after the BBC was forced to apologise for his swearing. For politicians something as simple as a tweet can get you into hot water. Less than 140 characters were enough to cost Emily Thornberry her job in the shadow cabinet. #Fail
Strawberries and Cream. Pimms and Lemonade. Wimbledon is steeped in tradition. The reason players always wear white at Wimbledon and not at other tennis tournaments? Tradition, that’s why.
You’d expect nothing less from the oldest Tennis tournament in the world.
British politics is also known for its old-fashioned approach. In the House of Commons chamber MPs are actually not allowed to speak to one another directly. They refer to each other as “The Right Honourable Gentleman or Lady” and can only speak to The Speaker.
MPs are also not allowed to accuse another MP of lying whilst in the House. At Wimbledon clapping is only allowed after a point is won; total silence is supposed to be respected whilst a point is played. In Parliament clapping is not allowed at all; as some SNP MPs found out.
Queueing for tickets is another Wimbledon staple. Many tennis fans wait from 5AM in order to secure day tickets. Wimbledon top tip; if you have to queue, send a parent whilst you have a lie in.
Parliament is no different; there are not enough seats for all 650 MPs. This major fail means that MPs have to reserve their seats early in the morning. Tradition dictates that certain older MPs should get first dibs. However, as the SNP showed Labour recently, rules are meant to be broken.
In fact most of the things we take for granted in British politics are actually just tradition, not written in law. This is because we don’t actually have a written constitution; an ultimate law for the country.
One minute you’re riding high; with victory within your grasp. And then suddenly it’s all over. You’re lying in the dust, not quite sure how it happened. And just like that your journey is over.
Sorry, Ed Miliband. Again.
Just like in Wimbledon, setbacks can come out of no-where. An unexpected fall for a tennis player could lead to an injury. And depending on the luck of the draw you can find yourself up against friend and family.
The Williams sisters Serena and Venus have battled it out in 25 matches. Serena has the edge, having beat Venus 14 times.
Two siblings fighting it out for the top spot knowing that only one of them could win? Is it just us or does this sound a bit like when Ed Miliband beat his brother David to the Labour Leadership?
Sorry, David Miliband.
You’d hope the first day of a new parliament would be about getting down to business and a fresh start. However the most important decision seemed to be a Labour SNP fight over who got to sit at the front.
There are 650 MPs in Parliament; however there is only space in the chamber for 427 people to sit down. Which makes total sense.
People who don’t get a seat have to stand at the back of the chamber to listen to the debate.
To reserve a seat MPs put a prayer card with their name on the seat they wish to sit in. Each sitting of the house begins with prayers – MPs don’t have to attend, but use this opportunity to reserve their seat. A bit like claiming your sun lounger with a towel when on holiday.
The front benches on either side are reserved for the head honchos of the government, and the opposition – in this case the Conservatives and Labour. Long-serving members of parliament usually don’t have to get in early to reserve their seat – these are left empty for them out of respect.
The Labour SNP fight started when the SNP decided it wasn’t enough to take nearly all the parliamentary seats away from Labour in Scotland; they wanted to also take away their actual Parliamentary seats as well.
Hours ahead of the Parliamentary session SNP MPs took turns sitting in the seat of veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner. Skinner has sat in that position since 1970, so the SNP trying to nick it was a bold move.
However when Mr. Skinner arrived to take his place, they moved and let him sit down. They really showed him.
Then nine SNP MPs sat directly behind the Labour front bench. These seats are usually occupied by Labour MPs. Incredible scenes.
The SNP say that they are the third largest party and therefore deserve a prominent position in parliament. Their argument is that before 2010 the Liberal Democrats (then the third largest party) were allowed that position.
Labour aren’t happy – if the SNP stay where they are, they will be visible in the background every time the Labour leader makes a speech.
Whoever said politics was out of touch with real issues?