We are in the middle of the annual political conference season and it will almost certainly be the last set of conferences before the next General Election. All three of the main parties have a lot at stake as they set out their stalls for the long campaign ahead.
For the Liberal Democrats, the important thing for them was to demonstrate that they were serious about trying to reconnect with parts of the country outside their leafy (and wealthy) heartland of South West London. The Liberal Democrats were a political force in places like Cornwall and Scotland as recently as a decade ago but their trenchant belief in the EU and refusal to accept the 2016 referendum result has left them floundering at the national level. They have made some progress in recent by-elections and will be hoping this translates into something more but they will need to leave their fawning attitude to the EU behind them and rediscover their true Liberal roots if they are to turn that into something more significant in Cornwall.
For my own party, the Conservatives, the key task is to demonstrate that there is a long-term plan to deal with the multiple challenges created by global crises like COVID-19 and the invasion of Ukraine. It has been a turbulent few years and governments around the world have had a lot of firefighting to do and we have been no exception. The global economy remains in a difficult place and the cost of credit globally has been rising since the pandemic. The Prime Minister has prioritised cutting inflation and has also recently set out some key changes that put him in a different place to the Labour Leader around the way we address commitments like net zero. His aim is to ensure that we do all we can to reduce the cost of living for the public at a time when money is tight.
Finally, for the Labour Party, next week they needs to demonstrate that they are more than just an opposition. I worked for the Conservatives when we were in opposition to Labour and it is not an easy task. The danger for Sir Keir Starmer is that he plays it so safe that he looks like he is taking people for granted and assuming it's all in the bag. He is indeed ahead in the polls but people are still entitled to know what his alternative agenda looks like. In 1996, Tony Blair looked like a Prime Minister in waiting and in 2009 David Cameron did too. That is because they had each moved on from just opposing things to actually shaping the agenda and it remains to be seen whether Sir Keir Starmer can do that next week and in the months ahead.
I have done my share of Party Conferences over the last 25 years, so this year, like last, I will be spending my time in the constituency instead of Manchester. I have two primary school visits and many other meetings with businesses and charities in the area it I will be watching events unfold.