Conference season 2014 begins – CAF arrive in Manchester!

Conference season 2014 is now here, and CAF has hit the road to begin our annual tour of the country alongside politicians, charities, lobbyist, journalists and party activists. In the next few weeks we’ll be joining Liberal Democrats in Glasgow and Conservatives in Birmingham, but first we head to Manchester to take part in Labour’s set-piece event.

Each conference this year will be conducted in the looming shadow of the 2015 General Election, now only eight months away. Over the past few months the polls have narrowed, and it would only be the boldest of boldest of pundits who would state with confidence their prediction as to whom will form the next government.

For Labour, conference is one of the remaining opportunities to connect with the electorate, in particular the swing voters in marginal seats that Ed Miliband needs to vote for his party if he is to enter No 10 in May next year. Each year, Miliband is charged with producing the ‘speech of his life’ (one for the conference bingo-game), and has in the past alternated between setting out his vision for the future of Britain, whilst also telling his story in an effort to help voters develop a personal connection with him.

The 2010 election was one of Labour’s worst results in modern time, and the party will have to rebound well if they are to form either a coalition or majority government. Miliband has presided over a string of by-election victories, but most of these have been in safe seats so their prophetic value is limited. Labour’s biggest challenge is dealing with a recovering economy. History shows that the economy is one of the most important factors for voters as they head to the polls, and Miliband still has work to do to convince the electorate that he and Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls should be handed back the country’s fiscal reigns.
That the election is on everyone’s mind is inescapable, and as a result CAF will be using conference season to investigate that the next election means for the voluntary sector. In order to explore this further, we have partnered with ACEVO to commission a series of essay collections for each major party, exploring both historic and current relationships with the sector and what the next government could mean for the future of charities.
At Labour, we’ll be launching The Red Book of the Voluntary Sector, in partnership with ACEVO. This features contributions from high-profile Labour figures including Shadow Civil Society Minister Lisa Nandy, Shadow Cabinet members Hilary Benn and Sadiq Khan, and respected Labour heavyweights such as David Blunkett and Hazel Blears. Come and pick your copy up from our stand!Red book
The launch will take the form of a civil society rally, and will give contributors the opportunity to give brief speeches exploring the themes in their submission. We’d be delighted if you came along to hear more. The details are:
1800 – 1900

Sunday 21st September

Derby Suite, Midland Hotel

(Inside the secure zone, refreshments provided)
In addition to this project, CAF will also be launching a report just before conference season exploring the value of the work that charities do in communities across Britain. It’s sometimes difficult to lose sight of just how much good charities do, and our ‘Charity Street’ report – produced in partnership with IPPR – seeks to redress that, demonstrating that social contribution that charities make to communities across the UK. We’ll be launching this report shortly before the first conference.
We’ll also have a stand at conference where we’ll be explaining to attendees the findings of our report, in addition to asking them to take part in our interactive game. We can be found at stand 22. Regular conference attendees might be pleased to know it involves less energy than last year! Without giving too much away, come visit our stand if you want to see if you have a better eye for detail than our politicians, and also if you can spot any famous faces lurking in our stand design!
We hope to see you in Manchester.

Steve Clapperton

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