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Free beer, curry and chat: your guide to the Tory conference fringe

Free beer, curry and chat: your guide to the Tory conference fringe

🕔09.Sep 2014

The Conservative Party’s official publication setting out fringe events at this year’s conference does not fill one with much confidence since it boldly announces the year is 2013 and the gathering will take place in Manchester.

Presumably even the Tories know it is 2014 and the conference is in Birmingham.

Never mind, mistakes happen. We are assured that the events listed are for this year rather than 2013, when the Tories did indeed meet in Manchester.

Even Chamberlain Files readers not attending conference itself may be interested in some of the fringe events taking place outside the secure zone. Here’s our pick of the best.

Sunday September 28

At 2pm in the Conservative Home marquee at the ICC there is something happening that Conservatives of a nervous disposition should probably avoid. Lord Ashcroft will be unveiling his latest opinion polling looking at marginal seats the Tories have to hold or win at the 2015 General Election. This is not likely to be good news.

A little later at 4 in the same marquee, Housing Minister Brandon Lewis and the National Federation of Builders will address the tricky question of how and where do we build new homes in Britain. On the green belt is clearly the answer, but it’s probably wise to steer clear of that at the Tory conference.

At 5.30 at the ICC hall 7b the Conservative Women’s Organisation asks ‘what will win the women’s vote?’ Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, is billed to appear alongside Warwickshire County Council leader Izzy Seccombe.

If the importance of corporate responsibility floats your boat, Meriden MP Caroline Spelman is giving her thoughts at the Hyatt Regency 5.30.

Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar is giving a drinks reception in the ICC at 5.30, which sounds as if it might be rather jolly, but sadly is by invitation only. Spanish delegates should probably stick to the corporate responsibility bash instead.

Meanwhile, free drinks, something guaranteed to draw a crowd at any conference, are on offer at the Brasshouse, Broad Street at 5.30. The only catch is that you will have to listen to Theresa May talk about broadening the appeal of the Conservative Party. May, of course, once famously said the Tories were regarded by most people as the ‘nasty party’.

In the same popular 5.30 slot, there’s an event entitled ‘Life’s better with trees’, which seems self-evident. The Rt Hon Owen Patterson MP has been invited.

On a more serious note, again at 5.30, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin is subjecting himself to a live interview by Anushka Asthana, Political Correspondent at Sky News. ICC hall 10b.

All of the above, naturally, will be eclipsed by Birmingham’s official welcome reception for the Tories, Library of Birmingham, starting at 6.30. The invitation-only event is sponsored by Centre for Cities, Marketing Birmingham and Resorts World Birmingham. Speakers include Communities Secretary Eric Pickles and Birmingham city council leader Sir Albert Bore.

The RSPCA is holding a beer and curry evening, ICC hall 9, to discuss ‘animals and contingency planning’. Only those at the conference as party members may attend, which rules out freeloading journalists, obviously.

Only those with the strongest constitution should risk the Conservative Way Forward’s midnight drinks reception at the Hyatt.

Monday September 29

The Guardian newspaper and the British Academy are discussing immigration in Hall 1 at the ICC. However, the unearthly hour of 7.30am suggests this won’t be the best attended fringe meeting.

A better bet for those in search of early morning sustenance is Bank restaurant, Brindleyplace, where Centre for Cities and Zurich Insurance are sponsoring ‘A Small Step For Business And A Giant Leap For The Recovery: How small businesses are leading the charge in cities’. Refreshments are available and speakers include Birmingham Chamber of Commerce president Tim Pile.

There’s an event shrouded in secrecy at Jury’s Inn, 8.15am, with a ‘Private Roundtable Discussion: How can we boost UK exports and compete on the global stage?’ Who’s attending, nobody’s saying.

The Tory conference wouldn’t be the same without Lord Mike Whitby. He can be seen at the Library of Birmingham at 11.45 in the aptly named Lord Whitby Room along with Andrew Mitchell MP. Plus Martin French, chairman of the Broad Street BID. They will be discussing ‘urban Conservatism, working with business’.

Universities and Science Minister Greg Clarke tackles a tricky problem at midday in the Novotel: “What can the Conservatives do to win more urban seats?”

The Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists meet at the ICC Hall 5 at 12.30 for ‘EUROPE: It’s crunch time’ discussion.

Birmingham city council chief executive Mark Rogers is one of the speakers at the Town Hall at 12.30 where the Association of British Orchestras will be posing the question: “Does culture matter?”

Former Tory leadership challenger John Redwood is starring at the Repertory Theatre at 12.45 where he will be discussing: “Setting Britain’s economy free: An agenda for a Conservative majority.”

The EU and the future of the Conservative Party is the subject of a Bruges Group meeting at Birmingham & Midland Institute 1. Speakers will include Charles Moore, biographer of Margaret Thatcher, and Jacob Rees-Mogg MP. There are rumours that Tory turncoat Douglas Carswell may be a last minute addition.

The future of the BBC, a subject dear to the hearts of most Tories, is up for discussion in a Guardian debate at the ICC Hall One at 5.30.

The magic words ‘free beer and curry’ should get delegates scurrying along to Wragge’s offices at Two Snow Hill for a Tory Reform Group debate at 5.30.

Centre for Cities chief executive Alex Jones and Universities Minister Greg Clark are debating ‘Urban Battlegrounds: How can the Conservatives win in cities in 2015?’ at the Copthorne Hotel at 6.30.

Castle Fine Gallery at the ICC is the venue for an event named; “Beers of Europe”. It starts at 7.30 and ‘refreshments are available’,

Tuesday September 30

Three days into the conference and a timely session about the perils of over-indulgence from Drinkaware & Royal Pharmaceutical Society. Various luminaries will be discussing ‘community based interventions to promote a healthy lifestyle’. 8am at the ICC.

Free breakfast at Bank restaurant for a session organised by What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth. Starts at 8, but invitation only.

The Institute of Economic Affairs & The TaxPayers’ Alliance is organising ‘The Great HS2 Debate’ at the ICC, 11.15.

At midday, also at the ICC, this question is being posed by EE: “Could voting on mobile phones swing future elections for the Conservatives?”

IPPR & Bright Blue are hosting ‘Conservatism Unchained: What would the Tories do alone in government’, ICC 12.30.

Why devolution is at the heart of the 2015 General Election’ is the subject of a discussion organised by the Mayor of London, Core Cities & London Councils. Speakers include Professor Tony Travers, Professor, Department of Government – London School of Economics and Jim O’Neill, Chair of the City Growth Commission. 12.30 Hyatt Regency.

Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, generally regarded as having the mindset of an 18th century Whig, is being interviewed by the Huffington Post at 12.30 in the ICC media suite.

The metropolitan public transport executives group PTEG is staging ‘urban transport question time’ at the ICC Hall 7a 12.45. Former Birmingham Tory transport cabinet member Tim Huxtable is on the panel.

At 1pm, courtesy of The Times, the Chancellor George Osborne is being interviewed by ITN political editor Tom Bradbury. ICC Hall 5.

Maintaining the transport theme, the question ‘Great Transport for Great Cities: How important is infrastructure for rebalancing our economy?’ is up for discussion at Jury’s Inn, 1pm. Speakers include Birmingham Airport chief executive Paul Kehoe.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan will be talking about ‘the next stage of the Conservative schools revolution. Novotel  4pm.

At 4.30 in the ICC ‘Think Tent’ the Institute for Economic Affairs is asking a question that seems likely to be greeted with a resounding ‘no’: “Soak the Rich? Should Conservatives back wealth taxes?”

The CBI and KPMG get together at 5.30, ICC Hall 10b, to discuss ‘The Business Vision for Britain: Tackling the big challenges beyond 2015’. Business Minister Matthew Hancock in attendance.

Head-bangers should gather at the ICC Hall 7a at 5.30 for ‘Rockin’ All Over The World: A celebration of our music industry’. Culture Minister Ed Vaizey will be there.

At 7.30 the National union of Teachers will hold its fish and chip reception at the Crowne Plaza. Numbers strictly limited. One ticket per person.

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