So Conference season has finally come to end, and the blue, red and yellow banners and bunting are being put away until next year.

Party Conference is a bit of a mystery to some, so I thought it might be helpful to tell you what Macmillan was up to at the three main political party conferences this year.

'Conference' marks the new political year. It’s a great opportunity to:

-Introduce new policy ideas

-Find out what each political party will be focusing on over the next year

-Hear priorities from individual Ministers, shadow Ministers, party spokespeople, and political  'rising stars'

It’s important for charities like Macmillan to be at conference, so we can make sure that ideas and discussions consider the needs of people affected by cancer.

Tuesday, a typical day at conference...

8am: A breakfast roundtable meeting about how to successfully integrate health and social care services, chaired by Conservative Chairman of the Health Select Committee Stephen Dorrell. I joined about 20 other invited guests from other charities, the NHS, social services, local government and the private sector.

10am:  A series of short meetings with individual MPs, Peers and cancer stakeholders, where we:

-listen to positions and offer our own opinion

-see how we can help

-usually ask decision makers to help on cancer issues

For example, if we are meeting a Parliamentarian, we might ask them to raise a particular issue in Parliament on our behalf – usually through a Parliamentary Question or by writing to the relevant Minister.

Midday: Another lunchtime roundtable discussion or a fringe meeting.  Fringe meetings usually have a panel of 3-4 speakers who set out their position on an issue and, then the audience offers its opinion in response.

1- 2.30pm: This is usually when party spokespeople give their main speeches to make the afternoon news.

Macmillan will often respond if we like something we've heard, such as Andy Burnham’s proposal to bring free social care for people at the end of life and David Cameron’s announcement to extend the Cancer Drugs Fund.

3pm: More one-to-one meetings, then another fringe, then informal dinner discussions with stakeholders then off to at least one evening reception for more networking and discussion.

Midnight: The meetings and discussions of the day just about finish up, and we try to catch up and gossip with old friends and colleagues before starting all over again at 7am.  Phew!

And after all that...

At the end of each week we evaluate what has worked, what hasn't, and how we can improve our arguments to be more effective the following week.

We attended nearly 50 formal meetings at this year’s conferences, and countless informal conversations.  Each will require some form of follow up – even if it is just to say thank you for meeting us.

Given this full-on schedule, charity workers who go to all three conferences are notorious for going down with post-conference flu. Having said that, Ciaran Devane, our Chief Exec, has been at all three party conferences for the past seven years which tells you an awful lot about his commitment to policy change for people affected by cancer – and his immunity to flu!

It’s a lot of work but this is how political agendas are formed and shaped, and how we try to drive Macmillan's priorities forward. And now it’s off back to Macmillan HQ, where planning for next year's conference starts almost immediately...

Keep an eye on what we’re up to by following us on Twitter. I’ll be stopping by again, but for now that’s me reporting from conference, for another year.



Public Affairs, Macmillan