Conservatives are to open up their annual conference to the public when they visit Birmingham next month, in a first for any political party.
They will hold a series of debates outside the International Convention Centre, the official venue, allowing people who are not members or even supporters of the Tories to take part.
Party conferences traditionally have tight security arrangements designed to prevent protestors from disrupting proceedings and to protect politicians from the danger of terrorist attack.
This year, the ICC and some of the surrounding area, including the Hyatt Regency Hotel where Tory leader David Cameron will stay, will be surrounded by a “ring of steel” for the duration of the conference. But Conservatives have also drawn up plans to hold some of their debates outside the security zone, so that local people can take part.
There will be public sessions for two days of the four-day conference, in a city centre venue.
The first will focus on the implications for Britain of an ageing population, as people live longer and the post-war “baby boom” generation reaches pensionable age.
It will include discussions about helping people meet the cost of living and the challenges for communities and public services. The second day will look at green issues, including strengthening Britain’s agricultural industry and the global effects of climate change.
Members of the shadow Cabinet will take part, sharing a platform with outside experts including representatives of charities Help The Aged and Age Concern.
A Conservative spokesman said: “We are calling it ‘conference extra’. The idea is to take some of the key issues outside the secure zone and try to involve the local community.
“In the past, you needed to be a member of the party and register for a conference pass to take part. But we are inviting anyone from Birmingham or the surrounding area to take part in this.
“We’ll have our politicians there and also people from other organisations who are involved in the issues we are discussing. The format is likely to be that they take part in a panel discussion and then it is opened up to the floor for anyone to take part.”
The Tories have tried to involve the public in their conferences before, with limited success.
Methods have included inviting peeope watching on television to email or text over their thoughts, to be displayed on a giant screen in the conference venue.
The party also set up a video booth allowing people to record short films in which they expressed their opinions.