The Conservative Party has been accused of an ‘outrageous’ suppression of free speech after a conference fringe event on a ‘people’s vote’ on Brexit was blocked from publication in the party’s official conference guide.
Remain supporter Conservative peer Ros Altmann (pictured), who was formerly pensions minister, told New Model Adviser® that the newly formed parliamentary group ‘Conservatives for a People’s Vote’ had organised a fringe meeting at the annual conference, and paid for it to be entered into the conference’s formal brochure, which has already been sent to delegates members.
However, the party machinery blocked details of the event from publication, stating that it was ‘against government policy.’
‘We arranged a fringe meeting for “Conservatives for a People’s Vote,” registered and paid for this to be entered into the Conference brochure, and the party refused to publish the details. This, to me, is outrageous,’ Altmann said.
‘It is suppressing freedom of speech and freedom of thought within the party, and when we consider how many fringe meetings over the years have been organised that discuss policies that are not official Tory policy, or indeed go against party policy, I find it wholly depressing that the conference brochure has banned the fringe meeting from its pages.’
The People’s Vote campaign has arisen since the European Referendum result in 2016. It argues in favour of the British public being given a final say on the outcome of Brexit, including the option of remaining in the EU altogether.
Altmann is among several high-profile peers who back the campaign, including Labour’s Andrew Adonis and former Liberal Democrat Leader Paddy Ashdown.
This week Adonis told a fringe event at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool of his hope that a people’s vote would result in a decision to remain, as a consequence of higher youth turnout, increased levels of British citizenship in the European ex-pat community, and public dismay at the government’s handling of negotiations with Brussels.
But Altmann has been told that her party won’t publicise the campaign.
‘The message was that it was against government policy. But of course that doesn't stop plenty of other meetings discussing policies that aren't yet government policy. Indeed, how can one explore new policy ideas if they aren't discussed openly?’ Altmann said last night.
The event will still go ahead, however. It will take place at 1pm on 1 October at the Novotel Hotel in Birmingham, which is outside the conference secure zone.
New Model Adviser® understands it will be addressed by three former Conservative Ministers.
We contacted the Conservative Party for comment but have not received a reply.