Conservative conference will go ahead amid concerns Westminster could detract from Northern focus of event

The Conservative Party Conference will still go ahead, the Party Chairman has insisted, despite Labour saying it will not agree to lose any more parliamentary time.

Conservative Party Chairman James Cleverly. Photo: PA
Conservative Party Chairman James Cleverly. Photo: PA

The annual conference is due to start in Manchester on Sunday, but with Parliament starting up again yesterday after a Supreme Court ruling that its prorogation had been unlawful, doubt was cast on whether it would go ahead.

The conference, which brings in a significant amount of money for the party, would happen, Party Chairman James Cleverly said.

But Labour’s bid to frustrate the process could mean MPs are shuttled back and forth from Manchester to London to take part in votes.

Northern Conservatives were optimistic they would still be able to attend, but concerns were raised that distractions in Westminster would take away from a focus on the Northern Powerhouse project.

Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said: “Labour have this week re-arranged their conference, moving the Leader’s Speech enabling MPs to return to London. The business of a party conference must be able to be rescheduled where necessary.

“At a time of such importance to the nation, it is understandable that the majority in Westminster will believe Parliament must continue sitting.

“Although some down south forget it, Manchester and Leeds are not that far from London. It will be possible for the debate about Brexit to continue in Parliament, and key issues like productivity, education and closing the North-South divide be debated at their conference, splitting Ministers’ time between them.

“The North’s business people are used to moving between commitments in London and in the North – I am sure political journalists and politicians will get used to it as I and so many others have done, and perhaps gain a better understanding of how HS2 would mean that they would be able to get a seat more reliably at what can be very busy services on the West Coast line at peak times.”

Andrea Jenkyns, Conservative MP for Morley and Outwood, said: "I hope Parliament will allow the Conservative Party to hold this annual conference, considering rival parties has had their chance to meet.

“We are keen to discuss our bold and positive vision for the future of post-Brexit Britain and our plan for the Northern Powerhouse.

“Cancelling or downsizing conference will also hurt all the businesses that are awaiting guests like hotels, restaurants and conference rooms, damaging Manchester's economy.”

While Shipley MP Philip Davies said he hoped he could still go but was “not sure whether that will still be possible”.

He said: “It would be a shame if the efforts to showcase the importance of the Northern Powerhouse are missed, but I know for a fact it is an agenda this Government fully supports anyway.”

Kevin Hollinrake, who represents Thirsk and Malton, also hoped to attend, as did Robert Goodwill, MP for Scarborough and Whitby.

It is understood that while there was insurance for the event, this did not apply if the Conservatives cancelled the conference themselves.

Mr Cleverly tweeted on Tuesday: “Lib Dems used their conference to say they would revoke article 50. Lab[our] used theirs to decide not to decide their view on Brexit.

“We’ll use ours to set out our positive vision for the country outside the EU. Of course #CPC19 is going ahead - look forward to seeing you all in [Manchester].”