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banner Friday, 5 October, 2001, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
Conservative fringe highlights
Conservative conference fringe logo
As has become customary with party conferences, away from the platform and on the fringe is where the Conservative Party will have some of its sharpest debates.

Law and order is always a lively issue for the Tories and one they want to win back from New Labour. On Monday the prison bandwagon is the subject of a fringe meeting jointly hosted by the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, the Prison Reform Trust, National Association of Probation Officers, Howard League for Penal Reform and Blair-friendly think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research.

Later the same day one of the party's most troublesome issues, Europe, comes up for discussion at a BBC World Service/British Council meeting on EU expansion - can it work for Britain? Newly returned to the Tory back benches Ann Widdecombe and Edward McMillan-Scott MEP are the key speakers.

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Quentin Davies, one of the few Clarkeites appointed to Iain Duncan Smith's shadow cabinet, joins Ulster Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson and IRA member turned informer Sean O'Callaghan at a Conservative Way Forward fringe debate on Northern Ireland.

The deep divide between competing views on the future direction of the Tories is likely to be on show when Steve Norris, just recently removed as party vice-chairman and a champion of the Portilloite "inclusiveness" agenda, is the key speaker at a Liberty/Millennium Britons Institute meeting on policing in a multicultural society.

Tuesday sees a classic clash of the fringes. The morale of the pro-European side of the party will be on show at the European Rally held by the Conservative Group for Europe/European Union of Women. Given that the party leadership has just been won by one of the key organisers of the Euro-troubles that helped do for John Major's administration, all eyes will be on who turns up and who stays away.

And meanwhile, at the same time but a different venue, the other, far stronger side of the Tory Euro-battle holds its own No (to the euro) campaign rally.

David Davis, the Tory leadership contender who dropped out to back Iain Duncan Smith and was rewarded with the key post of party chairman, delivers the Conservative Way Forward lecture.

Elsewhere, the man with no party Ken Livingstone is an incongruous figure to feature on the Tory fringe. The mayor of London completes his hat-trick of appearances at the three main political parties' annual conferences at the Greater London Authority meeting on Greater Britain needs a Greater London, joined by Judith Mayhew of the Corporation of London and also now adviser to the onetime "Red Ken".

Former shadow cabinet member Andrew Lansley MP speaks at the Bow Group meeting on images, values and policy - from here to the next election. Mr Lansley, a key Tory backroom strategist before entering parliament in 1997, caused a small furore during the Tory leadership election when he said the party suffered from "endemic racism". Now that Iain Duncan Smith has declined to offer him a front bench job, Mr Lansley's pronouncements on what direction the Tories should take will be keenly watched.

On Wednesday, the final day of the conference, Viscount Cranbourne, shadow social security secretary David Willetts, IPPR director Matthew Taylor and Sheila Lawlor are billed to speak at the Politeia meeting on the NHS - trick or treat?

The long-running issue of how to get more women MPs representing the party will be debated at the Conservative Women's National Council meeting on women into public life.

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