IF YOU’VE never been to a political party conference, they can seem curious things from the outside.

The big speeches always get the attention on the news, but that’s only a part of conference.

As so many organisations and charities are exhibiting or running fringe meetings, it’s a great chance to listen to them and the campaigns they are running.

Very often, these conversations give us a chance to feed in our experiences from our constituencies, of issues local people have raised with us and problems that we’ve encountered locally.

This year, I spoke with Parkinson’s UK regarding their concerns about the Personal Independence Payment assessment system for disabled people.

This is an issue I’ve spoken out on many times, as I’ve helped local people who have been appallingly treated by the system.

I also attended an event with the Royal British Legion about improving support for forces veterans, including those who encounter mental health problems.

Locally, I was pleased to accept the offer to become President of the Comrades of the Great War Branch in Pontypool, as part of efforts to remember those who served our country.

This issue is a poignant one for me, as we remembered our local hero James Prosser on September 27, eight years after his death in Afghanistan.

I also spoke with health charities including Breast Cancer Care and Cancer Research UK, about their work to raise awareness, find better treatments and support people going through treatment.

I was pleased to work with these charities when, in 2016, I secured changes in the law on widening access to off-patent drugs that can help some people fighting breast cancer, Parkinson’s and MS.

So it’s always good to catch up with them and get an update on their work.

After the genuinely positive and optimistic atmosphere at Labour conference in Brighton, watching the Tory conference on television was interesting.

The Prime Minister obviously had a bit of a nightmare delivering her speech, but I think the antics of Boris Johnson and others undermining her is likely to be the longer-lasting legacy of the conference week.

With friends like that, who needs enemies!

I also had to respond to Jeremy Hunt, who tried to rewrite history somewhat in his speech, trying to secure credit for the Tories for the formation of the NHS – even though the Tories voted against it in Parliament!

As a biographer of Nye Bevan, I had little choice but to write a piece on this – I can only imagine what Nye himself would have said!

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