By Member of Parliament for Harrogate and Knaresborough, Andrew Jones
Party conferences are typically seen as events where cabinet ministers or shadow cabinet ministers speak to the party faithful. That does happen but conferences contain a lot more activity that never make the headlines.
This year’s party conference was no exception and it was certainly one of the busiest I have ever attended.
Inside the conference venue there are up to a hundred stands run mainly by national charities and pressure groups. Prior to conference many constituents wrote to me asking me to visit the stand belonging to a charity they supported and I made the effort to visit as many of those charity stands as possible.
Many fringe sessions are for delegates to learn about the challenges facing charities or voluntary groups and, as usual, I attended a good many of these to find out first-hand from professionals, volunteers and those who have benefited from the work of these groups about the challenges they face.
This year I was pleased to meet the Breakthrough Breast Cancer team to be briefed on their campaigns to improve awareness of breast cancer and to discuss ways in which survival rates might be boosted and I will continue to support and work with the charity. I am a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on breast cancer and have recently been impressed by the recent work of Breakthrough Breast Cancer on the dangers of secondary cancers. It was an important meeting about an important subject and very useful indeed for me.
On the Tuesday morning I hosted the Stroke Association’s fringe meeting. I have been closely involved with work on stroke as vice chairman of an influential stroke group in the Commons. The event was organised alongside the British Heart Foundation and Action on Hearing Loss and was designed to highlight the difficulties people have living with long-term conditions. The meeting discussed how patients receive the information ensuring they have the information they need at the time they need it. We also discussed aftercare for those living with what can often be a very sudden change in circumstances and how that aftercare can be improved.
A recent feature of Party Conferences is the ‘Social Action Zone’. This is to enable those attending to do some voluntary work. I always take part in this volunteering. Not only does it help a good cause but you also meet some really interesting people with whom you are working.
This year, I helped the charity Support our Soldiers. Alongside many other volunteers I packed boxes to be sent to front line troops. The parcels contained all sorts of so-called luxury items such as sweets, crisps and biscuits and I was pleased to enclose a personal message of support to the troops.
This gives a small snapshot of my time at Party Conference. I also met with business leaders, key decision makers in transport investment and many other individuals and groups.
What I have learned at conference will be brought to bear when debating legislation in the House of Commons and will enhance my knowledge of the issues when talking to local groups and individuals back home in the constituency.