POLITICS
24/09/2021 06:00 BST | Updated 24/09/2021 06:00 BST

Labour Party Conference 2021: What Really Happens When The Party Meets?

What's the point of the Labour and Conservative party conferences? We've asked ourselves the same question.

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Labour leader Keir Starmer and Prime Minister Boris Johnson will both make speeches at the end of their party conferences. 

The Met Gala has been and gone, so have the Emmys, but the season of soirees is not yet over with and the Labour and Conservative party conferences next on the social calendar.

Some of us only hear about the political party conferences as faint background noise but to those in the political world, it’s a date not to be missed.

The real question we hear you ask, is it just a big bash for our elected politicians or do they get down to business? 

When are the party conferences?

First up on the calendar is the Labour party conference which will happen between 25 – 29 September.

This year the conference is taking place in Brighton.

The Conservative party conference will be held a bit later in Manchester from 3 – 6 October.

The main political parties in the UK hold their conferences every year, including the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru.

The Labour, Conservative, and Lib Dem parties in Scotland and Wales tend to host their own events at a different time in the year.

Big party vs big policies

So what actually happens at these events? 

It’s meant to be a time to rally support for the political party, raise funds, and connect with members.

The two main parties decide to operate slightly differently when it comes to what goes down.

Labour use the opportunity to vote on major policies from taxes to foreign affairs.

It’s known that the Conservatives tend to take a different approach. While lots of their members attend, there’s less policy talk at the table and it’s more a social occasion to build connections with party donors.

This year, topics like Covid, the economy, and climate change will be on everyone’s agenda.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivering his keynote speech to the Conservative Party conference in 2019.

Follow the leader, leader, leader

One thing that the conferences have in common are big speeches by each of the party leaders setting out their vision for the year. 

For Labour, it could be Keir Starmer’s last chance to convince his own party he’s still the right person for the job. Some of those on the left of the left remain unconvinced.

For the Conservatives, senior figures Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss could be making their case for why they should be the next leader.

As well as the main speeches, smaller events like panel discussions and drinks receptions are also held. And there’s often a range of stalls where attendees can buy party merchandise as souvenirs. Lucky them. 

Who is allowed to go?

Tens of thousands of people usually attend the Labour and Conservative conferences.

The events host decision-makers like MPs, MEPs, and local councillors.

Ordinary party members can buy tickets to go. There’s also an application process for lobbyists (people trying to influence government decisions) and members of the press. 

People connected to the parties from think tanks, charities, businesses, and trade unions can go along too.

Andrew Aitchison via Getty Images
Delegates give a standing ovation after a speech at the Labour Party conference in 2019.

Should you care?

You might be thinking you have nothing to do with any of the groups or people going along to the party conferences so what’s the big deal?

Well, what happens during these events sets the agenda for what political parties will focus on most over the next year.

And their focus is what affects us all as voters.