The charitable side of... The Conservative Party Conference

Anita Pati

As the party conference season draws to a close, what is the party of the official opposition doing for local charities?

What with the likely back-room leadership deals, you do not expect much charity to be going spare at the Conservative Party Conference next week. But organisers have remembered to look beyond the high jinks of the Winter Gardens to remember the less fortunate.

The coffers of the Lancashire Constabulary should swell gently as Tory troopers fling their pennies into the collection box at the conference hall's entrance. Money from this will be distributed to police benevolent societies across the county.

A Tory Party spokeswoman said that rather than nominate an official charity, the conference supports local causes every year. This time, the Mayor of Blackpool has nominated two charities for support: Brian House Building Appeal for a children's hospice and the Polar Bear disabled swimming club.

Representatives from both will fundraise at the civic reception on Monday night.

But whether it's the two-hander David Davis/Ken Clarke pantomime, or the razzle-dazzle of the Golden Mile, something seems to have dimmed the giving spirit this year. The number of charities supported is dwindling.

In 2005, there are two. The 2003 conference supported four: the Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Society for the Blind, the Blackpool and District Scout Council, Trinity Hospice and the North West Air Ambulance.

Of course, individual Conservative MPs have charity by the bucket-load.

Take backbencher Ann Widdecombe, for instance, who said she supported at least 56 - although Third Sector was ordered to mention either all or none lest some take offence. And with the law and order maestro Michael Howard's imminent departure, we can only speculate as to whether the police will be the lucky beneficiaries again next year.

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