It must be September. Just as Parliament has started, it goes into recess again for the Party Conference season. The Conferences are very useful places for people lobbying for change because they are attended not just by party members and Parliamentarians but a range of think tanks, campaign groups, national organisations and businesses, many of whom will go to all the different Conferences.
While the media will concentrate on how the big speeches go, for campaign groups like ours the useful bits are the exhibition stands, the fringe meetings, networking and the ability to arrange meetings with a range of different people in a short space of time.
Originally we had hoped to attend a range of Conferences but for reasons of cost had to stick with one of us attending one Conference. We chose the LibDem Conference as being the cheapest option and the one at which we can access campaigning, lobbying, Parliamentary and legal expertise most
We are pursuing a different strategy for lobbying Conservative and Labour Parliamentarians, some of which we can also do at the LibDem Conference through meetings with other national organisations. We’ve identified around 15 national organisations talk to and around 20 fringe
meetings which have some relevance to parents.
At fringe meetings there will be expert speakers (and often an expert audience) with influence at a national level. I’ll be looking for insight into what is happening in the relevant areas, what is driving current policy and what their thinking is going forward. I will use this to explain in the Q&A session or afterwards in private why issues you tell us about on the facebook page are relevant to them.
In private meetings with national organisations and individuals, I’ll aim to find common ground for joint working and agree a strategy going forward. Some of these may be things I can talk about afterwards, sometimes further work is required before we get something concrete and other times it’s just been a matter of placing a thought in someone’s head or changing their thinking about something. Ultimately the key to winning our argument is doing this over and over again until people forget they ever thought anything else!
Here are the three fringe meetings I’m most interested in:
- Education Policy Institute and National Citizen Service Delivering Social Justice: the importance of education outside the classroom (Speakers: Baroness Floella Benjamin, Michael Lynas, CEO National
Citizen Service and Jo Swinson MP. Chair, Rt Hon David Laws, EPI)
- NASUWT: (teachers union) How can schools support the needs and aspirations of individuals and communities? (Speakers: Chris Keates, NASUWT General Secretary; Layla Moran MP, Frontbench Education Spokesperson, Neil Jameson CBE, Founding Executive Director of Citizens UK)
- National Education Union (prev NUT & ATL): School Cuts – What’s the Damage? Ed Dorrell from the TES & Dr Mary Boulsted and others.