Wide angle panoramic view across the city of Birmingham at dusk.
Wide angle panoramic view across the city of Birmingham at dusk. West Midlands, England, UK.

How to make the most of party conference season

The conferences are the biggest moment in the parliamentary calendar for each political party.

They are a chance to see party democracy in action and get a real flavour of the issues that members and activists really care about, in their communities and around the world. 

The conferences also provide a chance for you to advocate for the issues that matter to your organisations. 

The Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham (2-5 October) will be a key moment for the new prime minister and her cabinet to introduce themselves to voters, establish their authority within the party, and outline their key policy priorities. This will be a big test for Liz Truss, who will be hoping to reunite a party divided by the recent leadership election. Although the conference is likely to be dominated by critical domestic issues, such as the cost-of-living crisis, international issues will certainly feature and there are many great fringe events to attend. 

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The Labour Party Conference in Liverpool (25-28 September) will be a critical moment for Sir Kier Starmer. Now is the time for Labour’s leader to lay out his vision for the nation, as speculation builds on when the next general election will be. Although Liz Truss recently said she has no plans to call an election before 2024, the Labour Party is already in full swing, preparing its election manifesto. For us, the conference will provide an important opportunity to hear the Labour Party reaffirm its commitment – announced recently – to restore an independent department for international development, and outline what it would do differently to respond to the main global challenges and deliver the Sustainable Development Goals in the post-Covid era.

For those of you going to Liverpool and Birmingham, here are some handy pointers to get you through the next few hectic weeks.

How to make the most of party conference

  1. Party conferences are full of varied and interesting events. Make sure you scour the agenda and get to as many fringe events as possible. Labour’s list is here and the Conservatives will be publishing theirs on their website on Monday 26 September. Or check out our blog for a rundown of the most relevant fringe events for our sector.
  2. Usually, there are parliamentarians everywhere. If you don’t manage to chat to them at a fringe event, it’s more than likely you will run into them in a hotel lobby, bar, or coffee shop. So be prepared to make your case at a moment’s notice.
  3. Haven’t been able to badger that minister or shadow secretary of state for a meeting? Head to a fringe event where they’re talking and ask your questions. You can also try to speak to them after their fringe speech, but these tend to be everyone-for-themselves moments so make sure you get to the front early before the inevitable swarm.
  4. Chat to others at fringe events – you never know what useful connections you will make.
  5. In previous years, I’ve met more MPs at the main conference bars than official meetings, so whether you fancy a drink (alcohol or otherwise) it’s definitely worth staying up late to visit the bars – you’ll absolutely run into politicians there.
  6. Visit the stalls in the conference hall. Not only will you get to see incredible work from some amazing UK charities, but you can also meet the conference guide dogs who can offer a moment of calm if you need it (you can even pat them).
  7. 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.
  8. Come along to the Bond drinks receptions at both conferences!
  9. At the Conservative drinks reception on Tuesday 4th October, you’ll hear from speakers on the important role aid and development play within the UK’s wider approach to international policy. A government minister has been invited to speak, so the reception promises to be an interesting one.
  10. At the Labour drinks reception on Sunday 25th, September you’ll hear from senior Labour figures, including Preet Gill MP, shadow secretary of state for international development, about how a Labour government would rebuild support for UK aid and deliver the Sustainable Development Goals in the post-Covid era. Make sure you attend the fringe events hosted by other Bond members and allies. Check out our blog for a list of events.
  11. Finally, make sure you’re topped up with loads of energy-boosting vitamin C – oranges help.


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