Tory conference cheat sheet: all you need to know about party summit

Just over a week ago, this year’s Conservative party conference might have been viewed by Liz Truss as an ideal platform to showcase her vision for Britain after a month in her role as prime minister.

Now – with markets in turmoil and the pound having fallen to record lows after the government’s mini-budget – the Tory faithful will gather at Birmingham’s International Convention Centre from Sunday to Wednesday in very different circumstances.

The issues

It’s the economy, stupid. The financial crisis will overshadow all debates and discussions.

Nevertheless, the party will gamely plough on with a focus on themes such as levelling up – which appears in the title of more than 40 events – and multiple discussions related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

While significant numbers of Tory MPs are being tipped to give the conference a wide berth, there will be an ample supply of cheerleaders for the government’s controversial direction of travel. Lance Forman, a Truss donor and former Brexit party MEP, is on the panel at an event organised by the TaxPayers’ Alliance, which is billed as addressing the question: “Have the Tories turned their backs on wealth creation in favour of state intervention and handouts?”

Other fringe events will, meanwhile, attempt to focus attention on issues ranging from animal rights to foreign affairs, with speakers including the US Republican pollster Frank Luntz, who will speak at an event discussing “Is America doomed?” Another event is titled “Tackling the most severe forms of disordered gambling”.

Day by day

A new format means that the main speakers, mainly ministers, are squeezed into two-hour periods on each of the four days, ostensibly so members will be able to explore fringe events without fear of missing out. But it also means that on days such as Sunday, when eight speakers are up between 4pm and 6pm, they will have to rattle through their contributions.

Sunday: On a day headlined as “delivering for the nation”, speakers include the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, after tributes to the late Queen Elizabeth II.

Monday: Every word uttered by the chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, will have potential consequences for the markets as he takes to the stage on a day headlined as “delivering a growing economy”. If he goes on after 4.30pm then the FTSE 100 will have closed, though trading on the pound continues 24 hours a day.

Tuesday: The health secretary, Thérèse Coffey, and the home secretary, Suella Braverman, will speak on a day headlined “delivering better public services”, while the foreign secretary, James Cleverly, will also set out foreign policy priorities.

Wednesday: Truss will make her prime ministerial conference debut some time between 10am and noon on a day headlined “getting Britain moving”.

Awkward moments

Against the backdrop of the current crisis, there will be acute interest in events such as one at the Library of Birmingham on Tuesday morning, which will discuss how the government, lenders and others “can work together to provide greater access to would-be first-time buyers who have found themselves locked out of the homeowner market”.

Organised in partnership with Lloyds Banking Group – the UK’s largest mortgage provider and one of the lenders that has been suspending products this week – the panel includes two speakers from Lloyds, including its homes director for consumer lending. Andrew Griffith, the financial secretary to the Treasury, has been invited.

On Monday, there is likely to be concentrated criticism of Truss and other figures in government from the Tory grandee Michael Heseltine and David Gauke, the former justice secretary who was expelled from the Conservatives by Boris Johnson – and who warned this week that the party was “lost in a fantasy world” and was a danger to the country.

Rising stars, absent ‘friends’

Kemi Badenoch – the secretary of state for international trade, star of the party’s right and the bookies’ favourite to succeed Truss – will speak from the main stage on Monday.

The spectre of Johnson – widely believed to harbour hopes of a comeback – will haunt Truss. The former prime minister is not listed to speak at any events, although a dramatic Johnsonian arrival would not be unexpected.

Rishi Sunak, Truss’s vanquished leadership rival, is reportedly skipping the conference, with a source close to him telling the Sunday Times he wanted to give the Tory leader “all the space she needs to own the moment”.

Culture wars corner

Events include one titled “The weaponisation of race – is UK education racist?” while a reception is also being hosted on Monday by the New Culture Forum, a thinktank set up by former Ukip politician Peter Whittle that has become a platform for culture warriors on the right.

What not to wear

Visitors to the conference have been warned to make sure they take off their security passes when outside the “secure zone” surrounding the venue. The conference agenda warns that there will be protest activity on the periphery of the site and in the surrounding squares and larger numbers of protesters are expected on Sunday.