Should political parties pay for policing at conferences?

policeFollowing a Freedom of Information request the BBC has obtained figures for the amounts spent on policing political party conferences.

It seems that over the last five years the Home Office has provided £106 million in special grants to fund the police presence at one-off events such as major protests or the Royal wedding. £50 million of that has gone on party conferences.

Some commentators have suggested that since music festivals and football clubs have to pay for policing their events, so political parties should do the same.

The other parties have defended the current practice:

A Conservative spokesman said neither his party or any of the others pay for policing.

He said: “We contribute a significant amount of economic benefit to the cities where our conferences are held.

“The contribution to Manchester in 2013 was £24.6m, and our conference in 2012 contributed £16.5m to Birmingham.”

And a Labour Party Spokesperson said: “The Labour Party does not pay for conference security.

“It is a decision made by the Home Office in conjunction with the local police force and we are very happy to co-operate with them.”

The Liberal Democrats were contacted by the BBC but have not provided a comment.

So what is our view on this?

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Simon Oliver 11th Feb '14 - 2:18pm

    We should have virtual conference attendance so that fewer people attend in person and the overall need for security and space is reduced.

  • Alisdair McGregor 11th Feb '14 - 6:27pm

    The main reason the cost of policing Sheffield was so high was Labour were spreading lies about us…

    I doubt most LibDems want the level of security we already have at conference; many would baulk at paying for it.

  • “The Liberal Democrats were contacted by the BBC but have not provided a comment”

    Difficult to know if I should laugh or cry at this statement. Why has the party failed to give the BBC a comment?

    It is not party policy to change the funding for policing of conferences .

    How difficult would it have been for one of the many media people employed by party to have put that sentence together?
    In this age of outsourcing I will give this sentence to the party’s media machine for a very small fee. I do not need £100,000 per year like that nice South African chap, you can have this sentence for a fiver.

  • I enjoy both bootball matches and political conferences but they can’t be compared in this way. Policing for football matches is there because historically there have been many fights between fans. The police aren’t present just at the ground, they also patrol local pubs, train stations, walking routes to the stadium etc. to prevent fights from breaking out. The police don’t attend political conferences to prevent fights between conference delegates, they attend to protect MPs and delgates etc from outside threats. Take that to it’s logical conclusion and if the police were to ask for direct payment from everyone they protect where would that lead us to – a mafia state?

  • Scott Walker is right, there is little similarity between a football match and a Liberal Democrat conference.

    The numbers involved are hugely different. The Etihad will seat 47,000 fans at a match. Under Clegg the membership of the party has declined so much that every single member could fit into the stadium with room to spare. Of course the numbers attending the conference is very much smaller than this.

    I am not sure how many people attend the Spring Conference nowadays but I did notice that on the back page of AdLib there is an advert for a coach to York with cheap fares. So I guess at least fifty people might get there. They could have a whip round to pay a local bobby to police them once they arrive I suppose.

  • The claimed economic contributions/benefit to Manchester and Birmingham seem rather high. Be interested to see some breakdown and rational for the figures, suspect the ‘special grants’ account for a few hundred thousand of the claimed benefit …

  • Football Clubs pay for policing inside their ground. Policing outside the ground is part of normal police spending.

  • I agree with Scott. There’s actually a really fundamental point here about the right of free association.

  • Only charge political parties if all others are charged … particularly the Royal Family. Eliminate all police protection for lesser royals – let them go at their own risk!

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