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politics students arriving at conservative party conference
Edge Hill students visit Conservative Party Conference

Edge Hill students discovered the reality of politics by spending a day at the Conservative Party Conference. Second year BA (Hons) History and Politics student, Max Tinkler, tells us how attending the Conference in Manchester has given him real-world experience to support his studies.

About the Conservative Party Conference.

Party conferences are key political events that take place every year, giving members the chance to interact with supporters, take part in important interviews, and announce new policies. This year’s Conservative Party Conference took place in Manchester. Senior ministers were given the opportunity to make a speech and outline their policies for the following months and years. An estimated 13,000 people attended the event, from both political and academic backgrounds. This year’s event was especially important for the Conservative Party since there could be a general election before the next party conference season in 2024. This meant that the party had to appeal to regular Conservative voters, as well as attempt to reach undecided voters to persuade them about how to vote. Throughout our visit we saw these attempts take the form of interviews and official policy announcements, which undoubtedly impacted voters’ opinions.

What we saw at the Conference.

During the day we attended several key speeches given by senior ministers. We first heard the speech from the Health Secretary Steve Barclay, who pledged £30 million to adapt and modernise NHS technology. In fact, the Health Secretary even mentioned Edge Hill University by name, pledging to expand medical school places for a series of universities including our own.

We also attended a speech by the then Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, one of the last of the day. We found her use of language to be interesting, especially how she used certain words to emphasise her argument, leaving a vivid impression on the minds of those who listened.

Other speeches we attended were those given by Michael Gove the Levelling Up Secretary and Therese Coffey, the former Deputy Prime Minister.

As well as attending speeches, we also visited the exhibition area which housed stalls for many different purposes. We saw media stalls belonging to The Telegraph, Sky News and GB News. These hosted  a series of interviews and some of us even made it on to the TV, albeit in the background. There were also displays set up by charities promoting their causes such as the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, and Chester Zoo. On our way around the conference we saw many notable politicians, including current and former ministers such as Priti Patel, Gavin Williamson and Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, as well as news hosts including former MEP and UKIP and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage.

What we learnt from the Conference.

Attending the event was a great educational experience. Getting the chance to talk to leading government ministers, past and present, was insightful, especially after having seen them directly impact our country. Watching political speeches gave us further knowledge of how the process of policy-making and policy promotion works and how politicians attempt to appeal to the electorate. Knowing that we had personally witnessed something which would be the subject of much news coverage and debate seemed to make the governmental process more real, since politics can often seem separated from everyday life.

I will never forget meeting several new people who approached us. Being able to talk to people such as a former New Zealand MP (and current New Zealand High Commissioner) is something I would never have had the opportunity to do otherwise. I remember one conversation in particular, where we were encouraged to grasp opportunities and recognise the importance of engaging with discussions, particularly with viewpoints which are unfamiliar to us. These are important notions which are applicable to all parts of life, but especially in politics.

Watching an event which will influence the process of democracy, and meeting some of the most influential people in our current political landscape, was an excellent experience. It is something I will always remember.

Max Tinkler
BA (Hons) History and Politics

BSc (Hons) Politics & International Relations launches at Edge Hill University in Autumn 2024. We focus our teaching on the real world and the current political landscape. You will graduate with the skills and knowledge to work within the system and change people’s lives. If you understand politics, you understand how the world works, and how to change it for the better.

Paula Keaveney, Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader: Politics & International Relations

“We are always keen to give students an inside view of major political events. It is the only way to properly understand them and helps students get a sense of the reality of politics.”

Paula Keaveney
Programme Leader for Politics & International Relations

November 27, 2023


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