MM’s top five… Tory Party Conference Fringe events

Between David Cameron’s first conference speech since winning a Tory-majority and thousands of protestors taking to the streets, the Conservative Party Conference promises an action-packed few days as it returns to Manchester this Sunday.

Here, MM looks at the best fringe events taking place this year’s conference, to give activists a peak beyond the security fence and help delegates to decide where to go…

Northern Powerhouse(s)

Given that Manchester is the flagship city in George Osborne’s plan to boost the North’s economy, it’s no surprise that eight of this year’s fringe events include ‘powerhouse’ in their title.

It’s now over a year since George Osborne first announced the Northern Powerhouse at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry, since then the Tories have won a majority and the powerhouse has got its own minister in James Wharton.

On Monday, delegates and those interested will be given a chance to see how the powerhouse will affect transport, housing, technology, the economy and democracy. At their event at Manchester Central Library (Meeting Room 1 from 12.45pm), the Centre for Policy Studies & AECOM, will be asking Where next for the Northern Powerhouse? with guests including Minister for Local Growth and the Northern Powerhouse James Wharton MP.


Whilst it has been Labour’s internal struggles making the headlines in the last few months, attitudes towards the EU remain a deep line of division within the party.

With David Cameron having promised to renegotiate Britain’s place in the Europe ahead of an in/out referendum, the question of whether the Prime Minister will get enough reform to appease the party’s Eurosceptic remains unclear.

But the conference offers delegates plenty of chances for friendly discussion – whether it’s TechCentral considering if Tech Better Off Out of the EU? (Monday, from 12.30 at the TechCentral Marquee), to CoVi asking How can Cameron win in Europe?, which takes place at the Fumo Restaurant in Oxford Road, also from 12.30pm on Monday. Guests will include David Lidington MP, the Minister for Europe; economist Vicky Pryce, and Charles Grant from the Centre for European Reform.


Party conferences are to politicos, what Glastonbury is to music lovers – so it’s little surprise that the conference offers delegates several opportunities for merriment, including a Party in the Sky at the Hilton on Sunday evening.

Sitting slightly more awkwardly in the line-up is a Drinkaware event asking, Is it possible to reduce alcohol harm whilst achieving a vibrant night-time economy?, set to take place in the Midland Hotel’s Wyvern Bar on Tuesday from 7.30pm.

Needless to say, refreshments are available.

Iron Lady

Since her election in 1979, the figure of Margaret Thatcher has loomed over the party, continuing even after her death.

The yardstick by which every Conservative leader is now judged, we can only wonder what she might have made of Cameron’s woolly-mindedness over the refugee crisis, or whether she’d be #team Boris, Teresa or Osborne for 2020.   

Not forgetting their former leader, on Tuesday (Midland Hotel, 5.45pm) The Spectator magazine will host Andrew Neil, for a discussion with the journalist Charles Moore on the 2nd volume of his biography of the Iron Lady.

Striking a balance

With the Trade Unions Bill further straining the relationship between the Tories and the unions, it’ll come as a surprise to some that Frances O’Grady, the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, is set to speak to conference on Monday.

She will be discussing What role for business and unions in boosting growth andliving standards? (Jury’s Inn from 6.15pm), but it remains to be seen whether the speech she gives to delegates inside the conference is the same she gives to protestors outside.

Image courtesy of Number10, with thanks.

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