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Rishi Sunak Bans Media From Conservatives’ Spring Conference

Rishi Sunak has banned the media from the Conservative party’s spring conference, with his appearance and a business day held behind closed doors.

The prime minister was due to give a speech and host drinks with party activists at the conference in Birmingham – the party’s second-biggest gathering in the political year. However, the press and public apart from Tory members were barred from attending, with the party claiming it was an “internal event closed to media”.

Business leaders were also invited to attend a business day on Friday at £500 a ticket, with promises of a “day of networking and highly interactive sessions between business leaders and government ministers”.

During the business day, the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, was interviewed by one of his Treasury ministers, Andrew Griffith, giving his outlook on the state of the economy after inflation soared above 10% again.

The spring conference is often a major event in the political calendar, with Boris Johnson last year giving a speech in Blackpool that caused controversy when he appeared to compare the struggle of Ukrainians for freedom in the war with Russia with Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

Previous party leaders have also given significant speeches at spring conference, with David Cameron and Theresa May often using the televised occasions as a way of speaking to the country as well as the party.

In its brochure for the event, billed as its “spring forum”, the party described the event as “the most important two days of the next general election campaign so far”, but said it was “a little bit different this year”.

Some of the sessions for members include advice on “raising money – how to seal deal with donors” and “Our Plan – getting it done: you’ve said you’ll do it, now get it done!”

A Conservative party spokesperson said the conference was only a “training event” for members this year. “Spring Forum 2023 is a training event specifically focused on 80:20 seats. It would be highly unusual for a political party to invite the press to an internal training event,” he said.

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Steve Goodrich of Transparency International UK said: “Parties routinely sell privileged political access at their conferences, allowing private interests to lobby ministers and senior party figures, so they could at least keep these jamborees open to some media scrutiny on the public’s behalf.

“Journalists are crucial to informing the public about how our democracy works. Closing the door to them keeps us all in the dark about access and potential influence in UK politics.”

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