Science by the Seaside – what we discovered at Labour Party Conference

The CAF team has just returned back from Labour Party Conference in Brighton, where we’ve been busy mingling with delegates, party supporters and politicians to find out more about their views on charities.


Shortly before conference season began, we launched a report looking at the different attitudes that MPs and voters have towards charities, which you can read here. This year, for our conference stand we decided to create a science lab building upon the different questions explored in our report, to get a better idea about what party activists thought about each issue.Kelley and Wes Streeting
As you can see, we donned our white coats and challenged conference attendees with a different question each day to get them thinking. The result was a number of excellent conversations about the work of charities and their role in society, and a better understanding for us as to how Labour members would like to see their role develop.


We asked five different questions, and we’ll be asking the same ones at Conservative Party Conference in Manchester next week. Here’s what we found:


We started by asking whether people thought that charities should be able to campaign and challenge policies. 98% of conference attendees said that they should, which compares to 93% of Labour MPs and 71% of Labour voters. This is clearly an area that the Labour Party feels strongly about, and speaks with one voice on.


Our second question asked whether charities are good at demonstrating their impact. Only 44% of attendees said that they are, with 56% disagreeing. This is significantly lower than amongst both Labour MPs (58% agree) and Labour voters (56%), but interestingly closer to charity workers themselves, amongst whom only 23% agreed that charities are good at demonstrating their impact.


Kelley and Diane AbbottOur next question asked whether charities are trustworthy. 90% of those at Labour Party conference agreed, and this compares to 85% of Labour Mps and 65% of Labour voters. Our report finds that trust in charities has fallen in the past year, and even though the charity world compares positively to other sectors there is clearly room for improvement.


We then asked whether charities should be protected from public spending cuts, with 80% of those at conference believing that they should. This is slightly higher than the 65% of Labour MPs and 70% of Labour voters who agreed with the statement in our report.


Our final question asked whether charities deliver public services effectively, and 59% of attendees said that they did. By way of comparison, 56% of Labour MPs agree, compared to just 46% of Labour voters. Our report found that Conservative MPs were the most likely to agree with this statement, so it will be interesting to see the response that this question receives in Manchester.


We also held a fringe event to explore the findings in the report. Speakers including Steve Reed MP, Catherine West MP, Peter Kyle MP and Vicky Foxcroft MP gave their reaction to the report, before taking questions from the audience about what the findings mean for the charity sector. As you can see, it turned out to be an extremely popular event!Labour room


We’ll be holding a similar event in Manchester, where Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Cllr Mark Hawthorne (Leader of Gloucestershire County Council) and ResPublica’s Caroline Julian will give their take, after Katharine Peacock from ComRes has talked the audience through the findings, with a particular focus on the attitudes of Conservative MPs and voters.


You can join us at:

1930 – 2100, Sunday 4th October

Exchange 10, Manchester Central

(Refreshments will be provided!)


If you’re in Manchester, you can also find us at stand 49 throughout the conference where we’ll be exploring our questions – and we’ll report back with the results next week.

Steve Clapperton

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