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Conservative Party cancels 2020 conference

The Conservative Party has cancelled its annual conference, which was due to take place 4-7 October at ICC Birmingham, and comes days after prime minister Boris Johnson pledged to provide a “timetable” for the reopening of events

The event, which is worth approximately £20m to Birmingham, will now take place online.

Prime minister Johnson’s party was looking like it was going ahead with its annual event, despite Labour and the Liberal Democrats cancelling their own conferences earlier in the year. The delay in making the announcement had prompted suggestions that the prime minister wanted to send out a ‘business as usual’ message.

A statement on the Conservative’s website read: “Following discussions with our partners we have decided that the Conservative Party will host a virtual [online] conference and move most of our conference in October online.

“We are excited to be working with our partners and suppliers to produce the virtual conference and will provide further details shortly, with the full agenda going live in early September.

“If you have already purchased a pass for this year's conference or are an exhibitor or fringe event organiser, we will be in touch soon.”

However, the move online seems only temporary, with the statement concluding that the Conservatives “look forward to seeing you in person in 2021”. In a letter to members, the party’s chair, Amanda Milling, MP for Cannock Chase, wrote: “We know that many people will be disappointed.”

Milling went on to note that while some elements of the traditional party conference “we all know and love” might go ahead, this would only happen “if allowed by Government guidelines”.

The Government’s guidance for conferences and meetings was released by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on 23 June, and was put together by the Meetings Industry Association, yet a restart date for business events has still not been announced.

As well as providing a crucial opportunity to speak to the nation and a source of income for the party itself, the conferences are of huge economic benefit to regional economies. The Conservative Party conference is thought to be worth £20m to Birmingham, underlining the importance of the business events sector.

On 3 July, Conference News broke the story that the UK would need to be at Level 2 on the Government’s Covid-19 alert system before business events would be allowed to run again.