Party conference season approaches. Did you know?…

September 18, 2014

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Party conference season kicks off on Monday. Ahead of this, we’ve compiled 10 facts about the conferences – including what’s particularly significant about this year.

1. Party conferences – do they last for a whole season? It may feel like it to some but party conference season actually refers to a period of three weeks in September and October when parliament goes into recess and the three main political parties meet with their membership and other delegates to discuss policy and promote the parties’ forward agenda.

2. What’s so special about the 2014 party conference season? This will be the last annual party conference season before the next general election in May 2015. The party conferences provide clues on the direction of the political parties’ forthcoming manifestos and debate key issues that matter to each and every one of us.

3. Why do the main party conferences take place in the autumn? Traditionally the party conferences were scheduled in the early autumn when seaside resorts had more availability and accommodation rates dropped.

4. So a trip to the seaside? Not these days – the last few years have seen a move away from the coast in favour of the cities of Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Glasgow. The conferences are often used an opportunity to showcase the recent regeneration of these cities.

5. Do all Members of Parliament get involved? Not all, indeed a ComRes poll in 2013 suggested between 38% of Conservative backbenchers and 14% of Labour members of parliament stated that they would be unlikely to attend.

6. Are party conferences all run in the same way? Similarly, but they do have their own conventions. For example, the Liberal Democrat conference retains a model where delegates vote for policy motions in the main hall.

7. How many attend? Conservatives and Labour conferences are known to attract more than 10,000 attendees. The Liberal Democrat's conference is smaller but has grown in scale since they joined the Coalition in 2010.

8. Why are they important? Party conferences no longer directly determine what goes into the general election manifestos. But they regularly set the agenda for the political year – and with an election on its way, this is particularly important to gauge. They are also opportunities to float policy ideas and road test their palatability with the party faithful.

9. Do the party conferences provide an opportunity to connect the public with their elected representatives? Political party membership has diminished in recent years and attending party conference is an increasingly costly business. For this party conference season ahead, to help plug this gap, PwC and BritainThinks will be holding ‘Citizens’ Juries’ on the major election debates, including how to lift living standards, deliver good growth and jobs and reform public services.

10. Where can I find out more about the public’s perspectives at the party conferences? We’ll be providing commentary and analysis on our Citizens’ Juries – visit our hub ww.pwc.co.uk/generalelection, follow us on Twitter or sign up for our blog alerts to stay updated.