An innovation that has appeared at Labour conferences in the last couple of years are the fringe meetings. Fringe topics this year included – Is New Zealand ready to become Republic?”; Young Labour and their campaigning in Mt Albert; A discussion on Open Source; Animal Welfare regulations in New Zealand; UnionAid and workers helping Burmese workers; and Union campaigns.
The UK party conferences also have fringe programmes, and they have almost become more important and enjoyable than the main conference. Over five days there can be as many as 100 fringe events with numerous lobby and interest groups doing talks and discussions on the things that interest them. Your main challenge is to get to all the ones you want as there are so many good ones.
It would be great if National looked at having a fringe element to their annual conference – maybe on the Friday, with the main conference being on Saturday and Sunday. And don’t set the agenda centrally – let people propose their own fringe events.
I’ve found the National conferences over the years have become rather sterile and overly stage managed. Remits have almost been killed off, and too much time is spent hearing from MPs, than engaging with them.