Conservative Party Conference
To be held on 1 Oct – 4 Oct, in Manchester.
Autumn marks one of the biggest seasons in the political calendar – the party conferences. Conference season is a much needed opportunity to pitch to the nation, pool as many members in one city as possible, galvanise the party faithful and try to generate much needed campaign funds in the lead up to the next general election. For businesses, the party conferences offer a great opportunity to engage with politicians, party members, activists, campaign groups, press and crucially, to understand the sentiment of the political parties.
The Conservative Party approaches conference season with its historical splits more public than ever. The goal will be a simple one – create as much Party unity as possible, while looking to win back the voters who voted Conservative in 2019, but now intend to vote for other parties. There will be a focus on Sunak’s ‘five pledges’, to demonstrate that progress has been made on them, without the voices of the various Conservative factions clouding the public narrative too much.
The Conservative faction led by the free market backers of former Prime Minister Liz Truss, have been pressuring the Government on housebuilding, onshore wind farms and tax cuts. Undeterred by the demise of the Truss-Kwarteng Government, they still firmly believe that slashing tax and spending whilst relaxing the planning system is the answer to the Government’s polling struggles, and for the country more widely.
The ever-present Tory Reform Group of ‘One Nation Conservatives’ are fighting against what they see as the more ‘traditional’ wing’s attempts to drag the Party into a ‘culture war’, whilst remaining as the Party’s moderate faction. The remnants of the European Research Group remain typically focused on social issues, immigration, and Europe, attempting to pull the Party further to the ‘social’ right.
As a result of the proximity of the next election, there will also be a watchful eye from CCHQ on those MPs who have already announced that they are not standing again and, as a result, will have more freedom to break rank from the Party line on policy issues. This includes recently departed Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, who has long had differences with Conservative Party leadership on issues like defence spending, whilst Sajid Javid has been vocal in his criticisms of the Conservative Party’s long-term vision on healthcare.
CCHQ will look to ensure that this year’s conference is not overshadowed by infighting, with all of the messaging tightly aligned to the PM’s ‘five pledges’. The keynote speeches are unlikely to leave much room for much divergence from the predetermined messaging, whilst the fringe events will provide more interesting insight into the direction of the Party and the pressure that will be imposed internally on the government.
In terms of themes, given the Government’s ‘nutrient neutrality’ decision and the recently revised ONS reports, there is likely to be a focus on growth and the prospect of tax cuts, either early in 2024, or as a post-election promise, rather than this autumn. This will likely be coupled with a social policy angle, mostly on immigration, designed to placate the right of the Party.