So, real politicos do eat quiche

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The Independent Online
The timing is perfect. The Conservatives crash to disaster in Wirral South, the general election looms, and suddenly London has its first political coffee house.

Politico's, a cafe-cum-bookstore for the politically minded just a stone's throw from the Palace of Westminster, opened 10 days ago. It offers books, badges and briefing papers with coffee and cheesecake, and a live TV feed from the Commons. But it's not just for political anoraks, stresses Iain Dale, the owner.

"We have Whitehall officials coming in to buy briefing papers they can't easily obtain. We sell a lot of think-tank papers to government workers," he said. "Yet we're open on Sundays and get local residents who go to church and then come here."

Mr Dale got the idea after seeing similar ventures succeeding in Washington. "This type of coffee shop was common in the 18th century. People like Boswell and Johnson would come to them and get their stories and discuss ideas," he said.

A large range of political artefacts is on sale, from badges, ties and t-shirts, to posters, paintings and table mats. The most popular badge is one that proclaims "Old Labour and Proud of It", while the more Tory-minded may prefer "Margaret Thatcher. Now more than ever."

Labour supporters are buying up all the Tory gimmicks such as the Demon Eyes T-shirts, says Mr Dale, but Liberal Democrats should not feel left out, with black and gold party ties on sale for pounds 13.95.

The 500-piece de-luxe jigsaw of John and Norma Major is a snip at pounds 7 but you may prefer the four-cassette edition of Barbara Bush reading her memoirs, or a table-mat set of the "New Labour New Danger" poster.

The walls are adorned with framed pictures of political figures, though there has not yet been a buyer for the portrait of Margaret Thatcher priced at pounds 1,350. A so-called New Labourite reportedly bought an oil painting of Lenin on condition he remained anonymous.

Upstairs, one can browse through second-hand books. Of the new books on offer, Michael Heseltine's biography has provoked little interest, with only two copies sold. "We bought dozens because we thought they would go like hot cakes. But we have sold out of the Derek Lewis book on the prison service," said Mr Dale.

The menu includes wild mushroom soup (pounds 2.95), leek and red onion quiche and cappuccino cheesecake.

Politico's, 8 Artillery Row, London SW1. Tel: 0171 828 0010

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