Conservative conference 2018 - guide to the biggest and best fringe events

Written by David Singleton on 29 September 2018 in Diary

Our pick of the biggest, best and most intriguing fringe events taking place in Birmingham this year.

This year's conference offically kicks off at 2pm on Sunday with a welcome speech from chairman Brandon Lewis. Next up on the podium are Liam Fox, Gavin Williamson and Jeremy Hunt. On Monday, it's the turn of Dominic Raab, Phillip Hammond, Michael Gove and Ruth Davidson. On Tuesday, Sajid Javid, Matt Hancock and Damian Hinds are up. Conference ends on Wednesday morning with Theresa May's big speech.

Meanwhile on the fringe circuit...




Resolution Foundation: How can the Conservative party win back the under-45s in 2022?

Sunday 12:15, Hyatt Regency

Former universities minister David ‘two brains’ Willets will hosts this session looking into the big question facing Tory strategists these days, Of course, the exact same question was posed at various Conservative conference fringe sessions last year and the answers were not exactly forthcoming. Can the Tories do better this year? Willets will be joined by David Cameron’s pollster Andrew Cooper and The Times columnist Rachel Sylvester. Health secretary and Matt Hancock app inventor Matt Hancock has also been invited.



Prospect and The Big Innovation Centre: The rise of tech giants and data capitalism

Sunday 15:45, ICC

Will Jeremy Wright turn out to be a great culture secretary or is he merely a placeholder with no real interest in the job? When Wright was appointed recently, one Tory MP leaned to the latter position. “I think he was wanting to get out of being attorney general and here was the opportunity to send him to culture, media and sport. I just don’t know how much interest he’s got in any of them, frankly,” they mused. This session should make it clear whether Wright is more digital native or digitally naive. Grant Shapps is also on the bill.



BrexitCentral: Making a success of Brexit - conference rally

Sunday 17:45, ICC

Depending on your perspective, this event will either see a host of committed Conservatives setting out how to save Brexit and the country – or a host of dangerous Brexiteers setting out a raving ragbag of rightwingery (copyright Polly Toynbee). Either way, it should be lively. Due to speak are Jacob Rees Mogg, Priti Patel, Andrea Jenkyns, Ross Thomson and Daniel Hannan.



Tory Reform Group: One Nation Conservatives reception

Sunday 19: 30, Hyatt Regency

Former education secretary Nicky Morgan and current education secretary Damian Hinds are due to speak at this event for moderate Tory MPs and their mates. If it's anything like the last TRG gathering it should be well-attended by MPs. Around 80 of them turned up for a reception in Westminster where TRG chairman Morgan called on her colleagues to take the fight to the likes of Boris Johnson. “We have to stand up against the louder voices. It is the One Nation Tories, the broad church, that wins marginal seats and when you are too shrill, too ideologically driven then you lose those voters,” she said.



PoliticsHome: PoliticsHome Quiz

Sunday 20:00, ICC

Turn up to see two Tory MPs pit their wits against political hacks at this light-hearted pub quiz-style event with question about the past year in politics. Last week, Labour duo Stephen Pound and Conor McGinn got beaten by hacks Harry Cole and Brendan Carlin. Will Tory MPs Jesse Norman and Richard Bacon fare any better against the journalist team this week?



ConservativeHome: In conversation with Gavin Williamson

Monday 08:00, ICC

It’s not been a great year so far for Gavin Williamson. First the defence secretary was ridiculed for telling Vladimir Putin to “go away” and “shut up”. Then he annoyed colleagues by allegedly threatening to topple the prime minister unless defence spending is increased by £20bn. "I made her – and I can break her," he was reported to have remarked. Can Williamson recover some lost ground or will he put his foot in it again? Journalist Isabel Oakesott is in the chair for this one.



CAPX: Adam Smith – Crusader for capitalism?

Monday 10:45, ICC

Take a break from the daily grind of Tory politics at this highbrow session with intellectual heavyweight Tory MP Jesse Norman and top Times columnist and Tory peer Danny Finkelstein. The chaps will talk about what Adam Smith really believed and what he would make of “modern capitalism’s crisis of confidence”. Alas there is no suggestion that you will get a free copy of Norman’s new book on Smith.



Policy Exchange: Can the Conservatives win in Canterbury and Middlesbrough at the same time?

11:30, ICC

In 2017, the Tories manged to lose seats as far apart from each other as Canterbury and Stockton South, as well as David Cameron's majority. Can they win them both back? Pollster Jo Twyman, polical strategist James Frayne and Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen are on the panel but the main drawer is Jacob Rees Mogg, who is not normally seen as someone with his finger of the pulse of how to appeal to voters in Middlesbrough.



Centre for Policy Studies: The Politics of Age

Monday 13:20, ICC

Catch some of the Conservative Party’s youngest MPs talking about how the Tories can do more for young people. Most likely to say something he shouldn't is 28-year-old Ben Bradley, who once suggested that unemployed people should opt for free vasectomies and more recently had to apologise for tweeting that Jeremy Corbyn had passed British secrets to a spy from communist Czechoslovakia. Also on the bill is 29-year-old MP Tom Pursglove who is best known for being best mates with ageing Tory Brexiteer Peter Bone and little-known 30-year old MP Andrew Bowie.



Telegraph Refresh: Are all young people Corbynistas?

Monday 15:00, Centenary Square

Telegraph Refresh is a “policy discussion forums aimed at young people”. Expect speaker Liz Truss to talk about young people are Uber-riding, Deliveroo-eating disruptors and freedom fighters who don’t want to be told what to do. Or maybe something even more cringeworthy. Also on the bill is 32-year-old rising star Conservative MP Bim Afolami.



ConservativeHome and Onward: How can the party broaden its electoral appeal?

Tuesday 10:00, ICC

What to read into the fact that Sajid Javid is the key speaker? Tory MPs are in no doubt that the home secretary is on manoeuvres for the leadership and this session gives him a good excuse to stray off his brief and set out his personal manifesto. ConservativeHome editor Paul Goodman is in the chair and Chris Philp is also on the bill but this session is basically about Javid making his leadership pitch.



Policy Exchange: Building more by building beautiful

Tuesday 11:00, Centenary Square

Turn up to find out whether newish housing minister Kit Malthouse has any good ideas for solving the housing crisis, stay to get a feel for whether foreign affairs select committee chairman Tom Tugendhat is the man to lead the Tories into the next election. The erudite and affable 45-year-old former senior Army officer recently told The Spectator that the Tories needed “a generational shift” toward a younger and more modern leader. Whoever could he have in mind?



ConservativeHome: Speech by Boris Johnson

Tuesday 13:00, ICC

Having quit the cabinet, Boris Johnson’s big speech this year will take place in Hall 1 of the ICC rather than on the podium. Will the former foreign secretary continue with his apparent transformation into Donald Trump? Will he take on board the criticisms of his former adviser Guto Harri who reckons that Johnson is “digging his own grave”? Will he manage to cheer everyone up and get a few Tory MPs back onside? Get there early to find out.



The Times: In conversation with Matt Hancock

Tuesday 15.45, ICC

The health secretary turns 40 on October 2 and how better to celebrate the milestone than sitting down with Times Red Box editor and top lobby wit Matt Chorley? Hancock will want to talk about his digital revolution in health, while Chorley will presumably do his best to get George Osborne’s former special adviser to say what he really thinks about Brexit and the Tory leadership. And it would be rude not to present the health secretary with a cake and to sing him happy birthday…



The Guardian: In conversation with Sajid Javid

Tuesday 17.45, ICC

When The Sunday Times recently asked one cabinet minister about Sajid Javid’s leadership pitch during a cabinet meeting, the reply came: “Why ask about something Saj does every week?”So it should come as no surprise that the home secretary has found time for two leadership pitches in one day at Tory conference. Having made his pitch to ConservativeHome and Onward in the morning, Javid takes it to The Guardian in the afternoon. Now that’s what we call having all bases covered.



Academy of Medical Royal Colleges: Priorities for investment for the health and care system

Wednesday 08:00, ICC

Did fun-loving top Tory Matt Hancock really intend to sign up to this early morning fringe taking place the day after his 40th birthday which also happens to be on the last night of Tory conference? If he actually turns up, the session should provide a fascinating insight into how well the health secretary can perform while hungover…



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