The day began early with a policy breakfast chaired by Refugee Council Chief Executive, Donna Covey. The point of a policy breakfast is to get a small number of senior MPs and other stakeholders sat round a table discussing a serious policy issue over bacon rolls, a Danish pastry and a strong coffee to keep them awake!
Policy breakfasts are just one of the Conference traditions – in the morning you have the serious business of Conference, then the lunchtime fringe meetings where topical issues are publicly debated, then the serious business of Conference again (this time with a speech by a senior politician – on Monday it was the Prime Minister), then you have the evening fringe meetings, which morph into receptions hosted by trades unions or corporate sponsors. These tend to wind down at about ten-thirty, and then there are a smattering of parties that don’t even pretend to have a serious policy focus – the New Statesman party is always a popular destination… if you can get in! Towards the end of the night, most people tend to end up in the bar, mingling with MPs, journalists and campaigners.
One of the reasons we do policy breakfasts is that with a day that busy, it is best to get people when they are fresh. As one member of the who attended told us, “Policy breakfasts are great because you get them out of the way without it mucking up the rest of the day – I have had to turn down so many dinner invitations because you get stuck at dinners for hours and it really mucks up your evening!”
The policy breakfast was a big success – we posed the question: “Wasted potential: how can we increase the economic contribution of refugees and asylum seekers?”. Our policy breakfasters came up with some interesting ideas ranging from the entitlement to work to making sure refugees are supported to access employment appropriate to their skills.
And tomorrow we have another policy breakfast…