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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 September, 2003, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
Conference season's greatest hits
As the 2003 party conference season begins, BBC News Online presents its guide to the key moments from these seaside political gatherings of the past.



By Ollie Stone-Lee
BBC News Online political staff

1867: Plans for first Conservative conference show early signs of Tory infighting.

The National Union of Conservatives, who wanted rally at Crystal Palace and a national conference, is upstaged by the Metropolitan London and Westminster Association.

The London activists take over the rally plans, leaving the national union to run a poorly attended conference. Only six delegates went to its second conference late in 1868.

1883: The Liberal Party assembly at Leeds votes in favour of women's suffrage

Aneurin Bevan
Nye Bevan often courted conference controversy
1891: The Liberal Party assembly agrees Joseph Chamberlain's Newcastle programme, which includes promises of home rule for Ireland and industrial accident compensation for workers.

This is effectively the first time a conference agrees a manifesto.

1900: The Labour Party is founded by delegates meeting at Memorial Hall, Farringdon, London.

1911: Conservative leader Arthur Balfour bows out after warnings that there would be formal attempts at the National Union conference to have his leadership disowned by party activists in public session.

He had probably already made his decision.

1923:Conservative leader Stanley Baldwin advocates tariff reform at the Plymouth party conference, leading to an acrimonious general election two months later where Tory candidates were at odds on the issue

1925: Ernie Bevin tries to get Labour conference to commit to never taking office again without a majority

William Hague
The teenage Hague made a splash in 1977
1936: Labour's conference platform is bombarded by calls of "arms for Spain" to shore up the republican government.

The National Executive Committee's argument that there is no proof that arms were getting through to the rebels there prompts anger.

1939: Union block votes at the Labour conference help to endorse by 5-1 the decision to expel Stafford Cripps and Nye Bevan from the Labour Party over their calls for a Popular Front against fascism.

1950:The Tory conference, for almost the only time in the party's history, sweeps away the view of the policy advisory committee and the research department with calls for a specific pledge to build at least 300,000 houses a year

1960: Labour passes conference motion in support of unilateral disarmament despite appeals from the leadership

1963:Conservative leader Harold Macmillan's resignation is announced at the conference, prompting a flurry of talks as Lord Hailsham, Alec Douglas-Home and Rab Butler jostle for the premiership.

Margaret Thatcher and Edward Heath
Thatcher and Heath looked uncomfortable together in 1998
1970: Liberal assembly endorses the party's decision to focus on community politics

1977: The 16-year-old William Hague makes an impression at Conservative conference, telling delegates: "Most of you won't be here in 30 or 40 years time."

1980: As criticism grows of her premiership, Margaret Thatcher delivers a defining speech, declaring: "U-turn if you want to, the lady's not for turning!"

1981:SDP's first rolling conference takes the train through Perth, Bradford and London.

1981: - Denis Healey beats off Tony Benn's challenge for the deputy leadership by 50.426% to 49.574% at the conference in Brighton

B>1981: David Steel rather prematurely tells Liberal activists: "Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government."

1985:Labour leader Neil Kinnock uses his Bournemouth conference speech to launch a fierce attack on Militant.

He raged: "You end in the grotesque chaos of a Labour council ... hiring taxis to scuttle round a city handing out redundancy notices to its own workers!"

That prompted Liverpool Council's Militant leader Derek Hatton to brand Kinnock a "liar" from the conference floor.

David Steel, former Alliance leader
David Steel's rallying cry was premature in 1985
1987: The SDP's party conference is dominated by the rift over whether the party should merge with the Liberals.

Anti-merger MP John Cartwright says: "No ballot gives anybody the right to tell me which political party I should be a member of."

1993: John Prescott helps Labour leader John Smith to win the case for one-member-one-vote with an appeal for delegates to back the man who had "put his head on the block".

1995: Labour's spring conference endorses Tony Blair's rewrite of Clause IV of the party's constitution

1995: Michael Portillo is pilloried after in a speech about Europe, he says: "The SAS have a famous motto; 'who dares, wins'. We dare, we will win."

2000: Conservative shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe's call for a tougher line towards cannabis users goes up in smoke when shadow ministers say they have experimented with the drug in the past.

2002: Tory chairman Theresa May tells fellow Conservatives that they must move on and shake off their tag as the "nasty party".



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