Monthly Archives: October 2011

Have the lobbyists taken over the Conservative Party conference in the UK?

Are party shindigs too dear?

Lobbying firms spent thousands of pounds accrediting interns to “bum-sit” on the best seats in conference hotels for meetings between executives and MPs. Young staffers were accredited for party conferences just to reserve seating in hotel lobbies.

The disclosure will fuel calls for the party conference season to be scrapped as it has been overtaken by private companies and lobbyists. Some 7,000 out of the 11,000 passes sent out for the Tory conference were for journalists or lobbyists.

Last Sunday, a joint party held by the backbench 1922 Committee and the influential ConservativeHome website was sponsored by Peugeot. Party-goers had to listen to a 10-minute speech by a director of the car manufacturer before Defence Secretary Liam Fox addressed guests.

Tim Montgomerie, the editor of ConservativeHome, has calculated that ordinary party activists are priced out of attending. He said: “It costs the average person £722 to attend Tory conference. When we went to places like Blackpool people could stay in B&Bs for £20 a night, but Manchester is twice, three, four times the amount and that is not affordable for the average member.”

 This report, written by Jane Merrick, Brian Brady and Matt Chorley first appeared in The Independent on Sunday on 9 October 2011.