Updated: Wednesday, 21st February 2018 @ 3:49pm

Police up security ahead of Conservative Party Conference in Manchester

Police up security ahead of Conservative Party Conference in Manchester

| By Dan Taylor

Police have upped security in Manchester city centre ahead of the Conservative party conference this weekend.

Barriers have been erected in the area around Manchester Central convention centre, where the conference will begin on Sunday.

It will be tightly policed, with large barricades erected next to the convention centre to contain the crowds.

Thousands of people are expected to turn out in protest against the party and its plans for leaving the European Union.

Protest events will continue throughout the week and actors Julie Hesmondhalgh and Maxine Peake will be involved.

A police spokesman said: “We’ve made it clear we will do what we can to facilitate the protesters, because that is their right, but if it gets into intimidation, then obviously we will step in.”

The conference-goers will be confronted by thousands of protesters in a mass demonstration organised by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity.

Police say there will be more armed officers visible than when the party last came to Manchester in 2015 following the terror attack in May.

The People’s Assembly’s national secretary, Sam Fairbairn, says that thousands of people will be bussed in from across the country for a centrepiece march in Manchester city centre on Monday.

“Why they think it is appropriate that Manchester is a place to hold their conference and not be met with opposition I don’t know,” he said.

It’s only a few weeks since Manchester Arena reopened following the May 22 suicide bombing and the current terror threat level stands at severe.

‘We need to listen to Manchester’

Conservative party members and MPs will come together for the first time since Theresa May’s party lost their majority in June’s election.

The four-day event running from October 1-4 will be the fifth time the party have come to Manchester for conference since 2009.

Delegates will stay at the Midland Hotel on Peter Street, where a number of fringe events will take place.  

And after public disagreements in the party on issues such as Brexit, the conference will be a chance for the prime minister and her party to project an image of unity.

She will also have to respond to Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at the Labour conference on Wednesday, when the Labour leader claimed the government was “holding on to power by its fingertips”.

But Dr Nick Turnbull, who lectures in politics at the University of Manchester, thinks after her general election underperformance that will be a tall order for the PM.

He said: “What she says at the conference will be important and the overall tone of the conference will be crucial.

“Lots of party conferences are quite dull and nothing much happens but on occasions like this one, given the context, it’s extremely important.

“If her speech is fudged or hedged then it will look like her whole leadership is falling to bits and then there’ll be speculation about a leadership challenge or an election.

“If nothing much happens that will be seen as a disaster because on things such as Brexit, discussion has got to move on.”

The chairman of Manchester Conservatives David Semple agreed, saying that the Prime Minister had to take notice of party members’ concerns.

“I don’t know if she has the ability to regain support through her speech. She is not a natural public speaker in the way that David Cameron was.

“Party members are not happy after we blew the election,” he added.

“We don’t mindlessly support a leader. We will criticise and we will be divided.”

Mr Semple added that there will discussions among the members at the conference about any discontent with Mrs May’s leadership, but there would no outright leadership challenge.

He also emphasised the importance of holding the conference in Manchester, criticising the party for being too London-centric.

“I think we need to listen to Manchester and try harder in Manchester, Liverpool and other parts of the country.

“The party is only concerned with the areas that are obviously blue.”

Complaining about too much control by from the party chiefs in London, he said: “We are against the centralisation in the party in London. We feel the bureaucrats in London are out of touch with the rest of the country.

“It has gone too far.”

‘Stop Brexit’ protesters will also march from All Saints Park to the convention centre for a rally on Sunday.

Theresa May will deliver the centerpiece speech on Wednesday October 4.