Alcohol Change UK at the Conservative and Labour party conferences

English | Cymraeg

November 2022 | 8 minutes

Earlier this month, ACUK attended the Conservative and Labur party conferenes as members of the Alcohol Health Alliance

As Autumn starts, there are a few weeks where the House of Commons goes quiet. Party conference season is a strange time, where MPs will pack up and leave London for a convention centre in another city.

In September and October, Alcohol Change UK went to the Labour and Conservative Party conferences as members of the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA).

This year, the Labour conference was in Liverpool and the Conservative conference was in Birmingham. The conferences last for four days, with events running into the evenings as well, meaning it is a long day! Teaming up with colleagues from the AHA meant we could share the work among us.

At each conference, the AHA had a stand in the exhibition area, alongside other charities, businesses and lobbying organisations. As exhibitors, not party members, we were not privy to the goings-on in the main conference hall, where MPs discussed their plans, but we were able to catch politicians as they went to and from the main hall to other events.

Our eye-catching stand displayed the logos of the more than 60 member organisations of the AHA, showing MPs that our sector is united in our aims to end the harms from alcohol

The stand also displayed the key statistic that 70 people die each day from alcohol harm, as well as quotes from people about their experiences with alcohol.

We took the opportunity to advocate our call for the government to commission an independent review of alcohol harm, highlighting that a lack of a cohesive strategy on alcohol has meant many effective policies have not been considered. Then MPs could pose for a photo, holding up a placard in support of our call for an independent review or a pledge to end alcohol harm. These were then shared on social media to show the breadth of support this issue has.

As well as MPs, many local government officials, such as councillors, also stopped by the stand. We gave out briefings on alcohol harm, which they could use to implement change at a local level.

Many people came to us with stories of someone they knew who had suffered from alcohol harm or looking for advice on how to help someone. This really brought home the fact that a huge proportion of the population is affected by alcohol, not just a small group of heavy drinkers.

Aside from exhibition hall, many organisations put on fringe events which could be accessed by exhibitors as well as party members. At the Conservative Party conference, we attended one event where then-Health Minister, Therese Coffey, outlined her plans for the NHS and social care. We will be keeping a close eye on the new Health Minister’s plans, to see if there will be more of a focus on alcohol-related issues, or whether the previous Minister’s priorities will remain.

Another event organised by the IPPR Commission on Health and Prosperity looked at the links between the population’s health and economic activity. The focus of discussion was the drivers of ill health, such as poor diet and housing, and how the Conservative Party needs to reframe prevention policies as allowing people more freedoms – freedom to a healthy life - rather than ‘nanny-state-ism’.

After the conference we followed up with the MPs we met, sharing more information about our work as a charity and opportunities for us to work together.

Our next event with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm will be on the topic of the exclusion of alcohol dependence from the Equality Act, and we will see many of the MPs we met attend.

Find out more about our policy and advocacy work here