Away from the set-piece speeches you see on the evening news, party conferences consist mainly of fringe events on every topic under the sun, sponsored by thinktanks and interest groups. They are usually held in hotel conference rooms and most attendees, to be honest, are probably there for the free food and (usually alcoholic) drink.
Where the Solicitors Regulation Authority fits into this is not entirely clear. Nevertheless, the organisation is in Manchester in force this week for the Conservative party conferences, as it has been at the Lib Dem and Labour conferences.
Quite why is another matter. On Sunday evening, while most delegates preferred the bars of Manchester, a modest 11-strong crowd (including one actual party member and, curiously, Lib Dem former MP Simon Hughes) was at the SRA-sponsored event on ’creating a meritocracy’. SRA board member Barry Matthews was joined by three other white men (including two Oxford-educated politicians) to discuss social mobility.
Employment minister Damien Hinds gave a nod to the hosts with praise for the legal sector’s efforts to boost diversity, and Matthews said plenty on the subject of solicitor qualifications. But otherwise Obiter was struggling to think what benefit solicitors – who fund the SRA after all – were getting for this. Particularly as there was enough wine on offer for each audience member to enjoy at least half a bottle.