UKIP appeal to Tory supporters, while Greens target Lib Dems

Autumn leaves Image copyright PA
Image caption Party conferences are under way with UKIP meeting in Eastbourne and the Green Party in Sheffield

You can tell it's autumn not just by the change in weather and threat of storms... but because the party conference season is under way.

The first two have already started with the UK Independence Party (UKIP) meeting in Eastbourne and the Green Party, led by the Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas, in Sheffield.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage is using the conference to appeal to disaffected Tories.

Image copyright presser
Image caption Nigel Farage is appealing to people unhappy with Conservative policies

He describes his party as having an "open door" and believes the bulk of new support for his party will come from those unhappy with Conservative policies.

'Mass deception'

Never one to shy away from controversy, he's used strong language to describe the three main parties at Westminster as "a group of college kids".

But his main target has been the Conservatives who he said were engaged in a "mass deception", claiming they promised one thing about Europe yet delivered another.

Elsewhere, despite the fact the Green's only MP represents Brighton Pavilion and the Brighton Council is the only Green-run administration in the country, the party is meeting in Sheffield.

Given the party's achievement at the local elections in May, this year's conference is particularly significant for its leader Caroline Lucas.

On national issues she's blamed "unrestrained capitalism" for the riots last month.

She told her party conference that underlying issues, such as lack of jobs and wage inequalities, must be tackled.

And she criticised David Cameron's "repressive crackdown" on those responsible for the disorder.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Caroline Lucas became Green MP for Brighton Pavilion in 2010

Just as UKIP want to appeal to disaffected Tories, Caroline Lucas hopes to appeal to disgruntled Liberal Democrats.

In her speech she mocked the Lib Dem leader and Sheffield MP, Nick Clegg, as "the minister for meeting angry people and being shouted at".

The party recently celebrated its first 100 days in power at Brighton & Hove City Council.

However, not all its pledges have been a resounding success - the idea for a "meat-free Monday" had to be dropped after a council official proposed piloting it with bin men.

But some of the pledges the party has introduced have fared rather better.

They've introduced an extra 60p on the minimum wage for 340 council workers to meet their living wage pledge.

They've also attempted to tackle the council's pay gap, with chief executive John Barradell taking a 5% pay cut.

They may have only been in power in Brighton for a few months but there is clearly still a lot of work to do - such as tackling Brighton's housing shortages and the lack of school places.

Despite Caroline Lucas' high profile as party leader and the election breakthroughs in Brighton, national support for the party in opinion polls has not increased significantly and remains in single digits.

So while the conference is a good time to take stock of the party's achievements, it's often a time when delegates - and the public - start looking at whether their leader is really delivering.

Over the next few weeks we'll see how Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and David Cameron all fare.

With the Liberal Democrats conference next, in Liverpool, Nick Clegg will be hoping he does not, in Caroline Lucas' words, end up "meeting angry people and being shouted at".

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