As summer holidays start to become a distant memory and the weather takes a distinctly autumnal turn, thoughts turn once again to the party conferences. As usual LGiU will have a presence at all three conferences. We’ll be running fringes on the future of adult social care and on how we might organise a ‘middle tier’ in the schools system. We’ll also be taking the opportunity to catch up with as many councillors as possible in each of the three parties to get a real sense of what their priorities, concerns and enthusiasms are.
It’s a just one part of how we shape our work for the year ahead to keep it grounded in the day to day realities faced by our member councils.
I expect that the next general election will already loom large over all three parties this year: the liberal democrats will be keen to differentiate themselves from their coalition partners, the conservatives will seek to set out a policy roadmap and political energy for the second half of this parliament and labour will be looking to articulate what sort of government they might hope to form.
No doubt we’ll have the usual mix of eye catching policy announcements, leadership speculation and the occasional gaffe in the fringes.
That’s all good copy of course and this sort of big picture politics is what gets reported in the national press, but for me it’s not the real story of party conference season. What really count I think are the thousands of party activists, including so many councillors, who turn up at each of the conferences to listen, argue, debate and help shape the party’s thinking and their own. They’re the people who keep politics alive where it matters, in real communities around the country.
At LGiU we believe that decisions should, as far as possible, be taken locally by the people they most affect. But we also believe that there should be a direct line of political representation, from your street to Downing Street. Councillors are a vital link in that chain and party conferences are part of how they exert influence on the political system as a whole