Tory HQ considers scrapping party conference over general election clash

The Conservative Party is considering scrapping its annual conference next autumn over fears it could distract from a general election campaign.

Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) is reportedly drawing up plans to cancel the event - the biggest get-together on the party’s calendar.

Discussions are ongoing ahead of a widely expected autumn general election, which would clash with the event, booked for October 2024 in Birmingham.

The move is being considered at senior levels in CCHQ, The Daily Telegraph revealed.

Those pushing for the move warn the gathering, which features speeches from ministers, fringe events, socials and is a major source of funds for the party, say it could take up too much time for activists, MPs and staffers who could be out knocking on doors.

They also fear it could undermine the party’s messaging, as high-profile MPs often snatch headlines with appearances at fringe events.

This year’s Tory conference was seen as a disaster for the party, dominated by the appearances of Liz Truss and Nigel Farage, while any core message was overwhelmed by speculation about the future of the HS2 rail project.

Some are arguing against the cancellation, with those working on the party’s finances raising concerns it would lead to a hit to the Tory coffers.

The conference reportedly brings in millions of pounds each year for the Conservatives.

Other ideas under consideration are scaling the gathering back to a single-day programme, compared with the usual four days. It could also be brought forward to the spring.

A source told The Daily Telegraph it was "very unlikely" the autumn conference would go ahead in its "normal" format.

The speculation appears at odds with growing speculation about a potential May election, which reached fever pitch after Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement tax giveaways.

Former chancellor George Osborne said people would start to feel the impact of a 2p national insurance tax cut by May, adding Mr Hunt had “opened the door” to calling the contest that month.

The latest date at which Mr Sunak can call a general election is December 17 next year. And some think that with the Conservatives consistently 20 points behind Labour in the polls, the PM will hold off for as long as possible.

A CCHQ spokesman said: “There will be an annual conference and details will be announced in due course.”