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I am an experienced online journalist and political editor working for Trinity Mirror papers in the West Midlands and the North East, based in the Parliamentary Press Gallery at Westminster.

I understand how government, Parliament and political parties work. I am equally at home digging out stories from data, social media or interviews as I am covering major set-piece events or explaining how things work to readers.

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Contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (but please send press releases to my work email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as this is the email I monitor during working hours).

The Birmingham Post is planning to go all out when the Tories hold their annual event in Birmingham later this month. I usually cover the party conferences alone with wire copy filling in the gaps, but as it is happening in our city this year the paper has arranged for a number of other staff to get passes and attend events.

As I understand it, the conference will also see more co-operation between the Post and the Mail than in the past, as part of the move towards an intergrated newsroom.

I have put together a memo for my newsdesk on events taking place. It covers a very small proprtion of the various meetings happening - I picked out the ones I thought were most interesting to us.

I thought I would publish it here, as it may be of interest to anyone who wants to know how journalists work, as well as people attending the conference. The Tories are making efforts to get bloggers to attend the conference, so Birmingham bloggers may find it useful.

Couple of notes:

i) I don't know if we will cover all of this, or any of this. It's not entirely up to me, and other things I don't know about are certain to come up. This is a memo I wrote, not the Post and Mail's plans.

ii) I'm assuming business desk will cover some events, which is why I am not planning to go to one or two important business-themed fringe meetings, but I could be wrong.

iii) I forgot about the "public" debates the Tories are doing, one of which I think one of my editors is actually speaking at! So I guess we will want to cover them.

iv) If by any chance Andrew Mitchell or Caroline Spelman see this - yes I know I haven't actually asked for interviews yet, but I am hoping you won't turn me away!

I wrote:

I have put together a list of the things happening at the conference which I think will be interesting.

I’m obviously not personally planning to cover anything like all this myself. If we have staff with passes who are able to cover things, we could send them. I am not certain exactly where the security zone extends, but anything at the ICC or Hyatt will certainly need a pass.

I have put JW next to the things I am planning to do myself. If someone else particularly wants to do them instead, that’s fine. If we have enough staff to take stuff off my hands then that’s fine too.

Note that things will change a great deal during the conference itself. Eg we will get interview opportunities, speeches which didn’t seem interesting will turn out to be interesting, stories will emerge from talking to people etc.

Other things I plan to do which are not on the list:

Interviews with Andrew Mitchell (Shadow Cabinet), Caroline Spelman (Party Chair) and David Cameron.

Preview of DC speech Tuesday for Wednesday, if I can get it.

Feature Sunday for Monday if we want it.

Here are some of the things happening at the Tory conference:

Sunday Sept 28

11.10 to 12.30 main hall – presentation and debate about Birmingham , including a presentation on the “social action project” in Edgbaston  JW

2pm-3pm main hall – Debate on Tory election successes, which I imagine will include some mention of the wins in the West Mids in this year’s council elections. Main hall  JW

3pm-3.15 – Boris speaks. No local relevance but will be fun. Main hall

5.30 fringe, Broad Street , Dame Neville Jones, Tory security spokesperson, takes part in discussion on political Islamism.

5.45 fringe ICC David Willets, skills spokesman (Birm link) takes part in event on skills.

6pm Fringe Hyatt Coun Les Lawrence, Birmingham Education Cabinet Member, in event on preventing youth crime

6-30 Church service in the Town Hall with Bishop of Birmingham speaking, Caroline Spelman as host and a rapper(!)

7.30 Baskerville House – Whitby hosts reception on cities and launches “urban hub” JW

Monday Sept 29


7.45 am fringe, Brindley Place , on how cities can respond to changing economic climate, Ken Clarke possibly due to take part

9am Fringe, Cambridge Street , on US elections, representatives of Obama and McCain campaigns speak.

9.15-10.45 – debate on the economy, probably of particular relevance to the Post but not as interesting as . . . (Main hall) JW

11-12.30 Debate on the economy part II including speech by George Osborne, Shadow Chancellor. One of the most important speeches of the event. Can assume he will talk about plans for tax and public spending. Main hall JW

12.30 fringe Shropshire MP Philip Dunne in event on retail sector

12.30 fringe on city transport, with David Frost, Director General of British Chambers of Commerce among others.

12.30 fringe Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders event, Tory Shadow Transport spokeswoman speaking, apparently invite only but shouldn’t be a problem, Broad Street . JW

1pm Fringe Brindley Place , Birmingham and the Civic Tradition, David Willets and others.

2.30pm-4.30 Health debate. Health debate Main hall

5.45 fringe ICC on school admissions, possibly interesting because Alistair Campbell’s girlfriend is taking part.

6pm Fringe Board Street , on “plural cities” (ie cities without ethnic majorities), I would guess they will talk about Birmingham a lot. JW

6pm Fringe Brindley Place, Birmingham Business Reception, Birmingham Forward and West Mids Development Board represented, don’t know if there will be speeches or just drinks.

6pm Fringe ICC Debate on who is the greatest Tory hero, David Willets taking part, worth asking him if he plans to mention Chamberlain.

7pm Fringe Colmore Row, the Future of Britain’s Cities, with Heseltine. Whitby due to attend but I don’t think he will as he is double booked.

7.15 Fringe, also on the future of Britain ’s cities, Brindley Place , Shadow Local Govt Secretary and Whitby . JW

Tuesday Sept 30

8am fringe Hyatt Regency British Chambers of Commerce, with Shadow Treasury Minister, John Redwood, David Frost of British Chambers of Commerce, focused on tax.

8am fringe Child safety, in ICC, with Dr Ravinder Thiara, Senior Research Fellow – Warwick University

9.15-10.45 Education debate, with speech from Shadow Health Secretary Main hall JW

11am-12.30 Crime debate, main hall JW

12.30 Fringe, Hyatt, on British identity, with Wilfred-Emmanuel Jones, the Small Heath man known as “the black farmer” (runs successful farming business in south west, now a Tory candidate – we should send someone, he is good value).

12.45 Fringe, Regency Wharf , on eco-towns, no local speakers but relevant to Throckmorton

12.45 Broad Street , fringe, regional government, with Eric Pickles (Shadow Local Govt Secretary) and our friends The Centre for Cities. JW

12.45 Fringe, the ICC, “Safe As Houses” – assume this is about housing – with Whitby and others.

1pm Fringe Brindley Place, on “financing the future of cities”, chaired by Stephen Hughes, Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council, not sure if he will actually say anything.

2.30 – 4pm Main Hall Welfare debate including discussion of the Edgbaston “social action project” JW


5.30 fringe Harborne Road Transforming the West Mids economy, speakers include Chief Executive of AWM.

5.45 fringe, Birm Council House, on trains and bus services, speakers include Richard Bowker of National Express, may not mention West Mids .

6pm Fringe University College Birmingham , “Wine tasting event -An opportunity to learn how the West Midlands is at the forefront of the UK ’s Export Economy”

6.30 fringe Copthorne Hotel Debate on whether Parliament is representative of the UK , with Bromsgrove MP Julie Kirkbride JW

7.30 fringe Cambridge Street , Andrew Mitchell on international development.

7.30 Fringe ICC on “Can We still afford to go Green?” Interesting because Lord Lawson is speaking and he is a sceptic, no local angle but fun.


Wednesday Oct 1

9.15-10am debate on “preparing for Government”, probably an opportunity for a story not based entirely on the debate on the fact that the Tories are indeed preparing for Government. Main hall JW

11am-12.30 Foreign Policy debate, perhaps of most interest to us because Andrew Mitchell is speaking about international development. Main hall JW


12.15 fringe Hyatt Regency, event on whether children should be protected from video games, no local interest but possibly fun (I think we have video game companies in the West Mids ?)


12.30 – Caroline Spelman wraps up conference. This is often not very interesting but she is local MP so will watch, also I suspect she will say how wonderful it has been to be in Birmingham . Main hall JW

2.30 – Cameron’s big speech. Main hall JW

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Jonathan Walker Political Editor of the Birmingham Post, Birmingham Mail, Sunday Mercury, Coventry Telegraph, Newcastle Journal, Newcastle Chronicle and Sunday Sun.

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