Glasgow to Brighton to Manchester: Save the Children at the party conferences
Syria. The underachievement of poor children in the UK. The aid budget.
For us, party conference season is a key chance to make sure politicians get to hear loud and clear about the issues that matter to children in the UK and around the world.
This year we hosted receptions at the Labour and Conservative conferences, and met with prominent Lib Dems. Here’s a run through the highlights.
Lib Dems in Glasgow
The announcement on free school meals meant that boosting the attainment of the poorest children was a big talking-point at the Lib Dem conference.
Supporting the incomes of those at the bottom was also a strong theme, with a review announced of the national minimum wage.
Those two announcements provided a framework for our discussions with Lib Dem parliamentarians.
We focused on the recent launch of Too Young to Fail, our education report looking at how children from poorer backgrounds are falling behind their better-off classmates before the age of seven. The consequences can last for the rest of their lives.
Labour by the sea
At our evening reception at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, Jim Murphy, the Shadow Defence Secretary at the time – he’s since shuffled to Shadow Secretary of State for International Development – spoke about the devastating impact that the Syrian conflict is having on children. He praised Save the Children’s work. And he spoke passionately about Labour’s record on tackling poverty.
If poverty is political, so too is the solution, said Kirsty McNeill from the Labour Campaign for International Development and an ex-adviser to Gordon Brown. She added that the UK government has a responsibility to intervene in global crises. Millions of people are alive because of the work that has been done already.
Ivan Lewis MP and our Chief Executive Justin Forsyth added their voices to the debate. Both spoke passionately about the UK’s global role supporting those in need.
Tories in Manchester
Our Conservative evening reception was held once again, in collaboration with ConservativeHome, the respected blog edited by Paul Goodman and Tim Montgomerie – formally a friend of Save the Children.
We were delighted to welcome a high-profile, last-minute addition to our panel – the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.
The Chancellor said that we should be proud of the work of British-based international charities. He talked of the need for the government to persuade the wider public of the importance of the work carried out by international development charities.
George Osborne went on to talk about wanting to be able to look back on his time in office and say he made a difference.
The screening of our video to Ellie Goulding’s ‘Song4Syria’ brought the room to complete silence – just as it did at our reception at the Labour Party Conference. A number of guests, including George Osborne, were clearly moved.
David Lidington, the Minister of State for Europe, kindly stepped in as a replacement for William Hague, who was unwell. Reading Hague’s speech, Lidington spoke of the Conservatives’ continuing commitment to keep its promises on international development spending. He promised the government would not turn its back on people who need help.
Thank you Morrisons
Richard Taylor, the representative from our sponsor Morissons, brought the speeches to a close. Without their generous support, none of these activities would have been possible.