How to make the most of party conference season

20 September 2018
Author: Paul Abernethy

Political party conference season is almost upon us - those few weeks where sleep is in short supply, political conversation is in overdrive, and it’s possible to live on Travelodge coffee for three days straight. For the best part of September, the main political parties will be hosting their annual conferences. 

This a chance to see party democracy in action and get a real flavour of the issues that party members and activists really care about in their communities, and around the world. It’s also a chance for you to advocate for the issues your organisations care about. Plan it right and you can get them in front of key party decision-makers in Labour, Conservatives or the SNP.

Party conferences can be a little daunting. Here are a few handy pointers to get you through what are a pretty hectic few weeks. 

How to make the most if it

  • Conference is full of varied and interesting events. Make sure you scour that agenda and get to as many fringes as possible.
  • There are parliamentarians EVERYWHERE. If you don’t manage to chat to them at a fringe, it’s more than likely you will run into them in the hotel lobby, or the bar, or the coffee shop. Be prepared to give your spiel at a moment’s notice.
  • Haven’t been able to badger that minister or shadow secretary of state for a meeting? Head to a fringe where they are talking and ask your questions. You can also try speak to them after their fringe speech, but it’s a bit like the Hunger Games so make sure you get to the front early before the inevitable swarm.
  • You’ve gotta network to get work. Chat to others in fringes - you never know what useful connections you will make.
  • Most fringes have free food and drinks - make the most of it.
  • In previous years, I’ve met more MPs at the bars than official meetings. Whether to drink or not is your prerogative, but it’s definitely worth staying up late to visit the main conference bars - you’ll absolutely run into politicians there.
  • Go visit the stalls in the conference hall. Not only will you get to see the incredible work of some amazing charities in the UK, the guide dogs are always there if you need to chill out for a second (you can even pat them).
  • It’s a marathon not a sprint. More often than not it’s an early start and late finish - make sure you look after yourself.
  • Attend the Bond drinks receptions at the Labour and Conservative Conferences. For Labour, we have special speeches from both Alison McGovern MP and the shadow international development minister, Dan Carden MP. Join us for the Conservative drinks reception to hear from Jeremy Lefroy MP and the secretary of state for international development, Penny Mordaunt MP.
  • Make sure you also attend the fringe events hosted by other Bond members and allies. A full readout of these incredible events can be found here.
  • Loads of vitamin C - oranges help!

Find out more about Bond's drinks receptions and other events being run.

About the author

Paul Abernethy

Paul leads the political advocacy of Bond, working with parliamentarians and ministers in support of ending global poverty.