Conservative and Labour conference season: An exhaustive, exact and deadly serious guide to attending political conferences

It is political conference season, and if you’re unlucky enough to be going, this is for you.

As a veteran of standing at events eating canapés wishing someone would say something interesting, I am somewhat of an authority on how to get through these things.

Because that’s what you do – you get through them, wandering between fringes fuelled by beige sandwiches and gossip, hoping to bump into someone you know.

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Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer will be a key figure at the party's conference starting Sunday in Liverpool. Picture: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images

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Conferences are a spectacle of indulgence, rooms full of money where people try to curry favour or schmooze for a better job.

There are fringes, parties, speeches, receptions, and all other words you can use to describe a few people talking in a room with white wine.

By the time you are reading this, I will be in town for Labour conference – an event so thrilling I know of several MPs who made commitments especially to spend fewer days at it.

I’ll have got the train in last night, reading my events list with excitement, ready to sip at the overflowing cup of democracy.

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So how to cope? The most important thing is to accept you are a nobody and getting into a fancy event won’t change that.

At my first conference I was taken in by the parties, the important names in the room, and striving to get into the events that were invite only.

You do so knowing not everyone you want to see will be able to do the same and, fundamentally, you’re at a party filled with men who have Wikipedia pages and little interest in talking to you.

There is an argument to getting in for getting in’s sake, but really, how good can a party be where everyone wears suits?

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Politics is on tour, there are late night events to let your hair down, and still everyone will insist on dressing for a job interview.

That’s not to say they don’t have value, which can be found in the holy trinity of booze, canapés, and gossip, so pick your events accordingly.

Small fringes will have worse snacks, but better chat. Those with dodgy sponsors or big name speakers are likely to have ritzier drinks, but zero patter.

But make sure not to have too much of it. Much like the Downing Street parties, this is a work event, and mistakes do not stay at conference.

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To avoid this, eat constantly, never say no to free food, and alternate water with the buckets of wine on offer.

Most importantly, stay away from the main hotel bar. It’s an easy place to congregate, but it’s expensive, busy and you’re far too young/old for this (delete as appropriate).

Then there is the politics itself, and the question whether in going you will actually learn something.

The answer is invariably yes. There will be real debate, actual policy announcements and an inner party conflict to sink your teeth into.

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Having a view on this will be important, with the days going much faster once you’ve assigned a faction as your nemeses.

Finally, much like all festivals, accept you won’t see everything, the most fun to be had is away from the main stage, and the best feeling will be getting home.

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