This article was written for the News & Star.
One of the first signs of the end of summer is the schools heading back. And guess what, as soon as they do the weather suddenly improves! This unfortunate reality is starting to become one of those annual traditions we now have in this country.
Another returning institution which heralds the end of summer is Parliament. The Palace of Westminster is once again the home to a sitting Commons and Lords, and so the political timetable kicks back into gear.
Firstly, we have the Party Conferences to look forward to. These are very much for the political activist and other interested groups. It is a time when the various political tribes get a chance to meet, hear what their respective leaderships have to say – and then have far more exciting discussions on the fringes where the real political discussion often takes place! Sadly, the media often want to portray division and controversy rather than recognising conferences as forums for the battle of ideas within the different parties.
Of course, Party Conferences are of interest to those active in politics – but they do have significance for the country as a whole. It is within these forums that the buds of future governments and their policies begin to grow, so it is always worth keeping an eye on what is happening and what is being said.
There will be two particular areas that I will be focussing on at Conservative Party Conference. The first will be a discussion about the importance of local football clubs in the North of England and the contributions they make to their communities – something which can often be overlooked.
Secondly, I, with other Northern Conservative MPs as part of the Northern Research Group, will launch our Northern Manifesto. This document will be an opportunity, we hope, to influence the ideas that will be put forward in next election to ensure that there is a clear emphasis on the North.
After the conferences, in November, will come the first King’s Speech in over 70 years – a truly historic event. It will also be the last such event until after the next General Election. Later that month we will have the Autumn Statement from the Chancellor setting out the current economic position and looking ahead to what the future will be. We all recognise that the last year has been tough with rising interest rates and inflation. The hope is that rates have peaked, or are close to doing so, while inflation should fall significantly over the next few months. Combined with higher wage settlements the pressure on incomes should ease compared to the difficult previous year.
These are the set piece events which are part of the political life each year. But they take on a particular importance in years like this because they will be the forums, debates, and conversations that shape the offer which will be made to the country before a General Election. Well worth keeping an eye on.