The Tory party annual conference is the latest political fixture to be affected by coronavirus with organisers confirming they are switching to a virtual format.

The annual event, which was due to be held in Birmingham in October, will be moved online, though party chair Amanda Milling said she still hoped some kind of physical event might be possible.

Labour the the Liberal Democrats have already announced that their autumn conferences will not go ahead as usual because of the virus.

Emailing party members, Milling said: “Due to the coronavirus we have had to review how we could hold a traditional conference in October this year. The party’s first priority is for the health and safety of members, delegates and attendees.

“Following discussions with our partners we have decided that the Conservative party will host a virtual conference and move most of our conference in October online.

“We are excited to be working with our partners and suppliers to produce the virtual conference and will provide further details shortly, with the full agenda going live in early September.

“Party conference is a highlight of the political calendar and we know many people will be disappointed if they can’t attend conference in person.”

Conference attracts thousands of delegates each year and is a significant party money-maker as organisations, exhibitors and lobbyists use it to rent spaces, host receptions and fringe events.

The prime minister’s speech and others given by leading cabinet ministers are big draws but unlike other political party conferences it does not have any constitutional function and is more of a showcase for the party’s vision.

Last year’s event held in Manchester temporarily looked in doubt during the prorogation fiasco when MPs voted against allowing a recess for the Tory party conference, which meant ministers were having to travel up and down to London to continue with business going on at the same time in the Commons.

The Guardian reported in May how Labour’s annual autumn conference in Liverpool had been cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak, with an online event planned to replace it.

The party conference, which would have been the first with Sir Keir Starmer as leader, was to be held at the ACC convention venue in mid-September. The Liberal Democrats are also due to replace their conference which was due to be held in Brighton with a virtual version.

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