RSA event: Party conferences – who needs them?

by Stephen Tall on September 23, 2009

I’m speaking tomorrow, Thursday, at a lunchtime lecture at the RSA with the timely title, Party conferences – who needs them?, alongside Stephen Pound MP, Iain Dale and Michael White. Here’s the blurb:

The annual party conferences attract hordes of the party faithful and mark the start of the political calendar for the Whitehall establishment. The news teams and cameras will be there poised to cover events. But what impact do the party conferences really have in Britain, or indeed the wider world?

Policy is no longer made here – arguably the party conference has become a triumph of stage management over substance. The media seem less interested in policy issues than in political intrigue and catching politicians ‘letting their hair down’. And the whole ‘carnival of the politicos’ tends to pass the wider world by. So why in the 21st century do our political parties still decamp to the seaside come autumn?

Can we foresee a time when the party conferences will die out? And if the conferences don’t make any discernible impact on our country’s democracy, what should take their place?

To those who were in Bournemouth this week – and, indeed, to those who weren’t – can I ask three questions:

1) what do you hope to get out of attending a Lib Dem conference?
2) what do you think is the most important role of the Lib Dem conference?
3) how do you think the Lib Dem party conference will change in the years ahead?

The event, which starts at 1pm, will be audio-broadcast live on the RSA website, and you can follow discussion on Twitter at #rsapartyconf.