Security checks cause conference chaos
COLCHESTER Conservatives have demanded an urgent investigation into the fiasco surrounding the issuing of credentials for the Tory conference.Several hundred delegates, exhibitors, journalists, parliamentary assistants, and lobbyists were today still unable to access the main conference centre in Bournemouth, three days after the event opened, because they were waiting police clearance.
By Graham Dines
COLCHESTER Conservatives have demanded an urgent investigation into the fiasco surrounding the issuing of credentials for the Tory conference.
Several hundred delegates, exhibitors, journalists, parliamentary assistants, and lobbyists were today still unable to access the main conference centre in Bournemouth, three days after the event opened, because they were waiting police clearance.
Ron Levy, the Colchester chairman who was caught up in the delay, said: “What's happened here is utterly unacceptable. I want to know why people who applied in June have had all this difficulty.”
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It took Mr Levy nearly two days of waiting to have his conference pass cleared. “I went to last year's conference so I'm on record. This must not happen again.”
Colchester constituency Tories have sent their largest ever delegation to the conference, including a number of would-be parliamentary candidates. Many had to queue for hours while the application of Essex North delegate Kevin Bentley was lost and he had to wait two days for his credential to be processed.
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The delays, due to the need for extra police checks followed the alleged airliner bomb plot in August, have forced many people to go home. Harwich MP Douglas Carswell eventually received his photo ID pass after three days, which meant he had to cancel several speaking engagements.
South East England Euro MP Nerj Diva gave it up as a bad job. “Party chairman Francis Maude saw me in the queue, but told me he had no discretion to get me in. Whatever happened to the basic principle of freedom of expression in this country?
“It's akin to the beginning of a police state when a party chairman has no discretionary power over the police as to who he allows into his own conference.”
A spokesman for party said: “We deeply regret the delays which have resulted in long queues. Police checks this year have been more stringent as a result of the heightened national security.
“It took two months for David Cameron's pass to be sorted out by the authorities. We have done everything we can to speed up the process, but we are totally in the hands of the police.”
The Dorset constabulary is responsible for security at the conference. Part of the reason for the delays appears to be the increased number of journalists and lobbyists who are attending the conference. It's estimated that around 17,000 people apply for passes to the Labour and Tory conferences.
Last week, Labour delegates in Manchester suffered the same backlog, with many waiting two days for their credentials to be cleared by the Greater Manchester force.
Applications for passes have to be lodged by the end of July. These are subjected to police security clearance and normally Labour and the Tories send out the photo ID passes early in September.
Jonathan Refoy, head of public affairs at Stansted, and his public affairs analyst Tom McGarry were the victims of delays at both conferences, which they were attending to put the case for a second runway at the Essex airport.
EADT political editor Graham Dines received his Tory pass through the post in mid September, but had to collect his Labour credentials from the late accreditation office because of delays for police checks.