Andy McSmith's Conference Diary: Cameron summons up spirit of Witney to defeat Reckless

Conservatives may be giving up on Clacton, but are fighting to hold on to Rochester and Strood

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The Conservatives have effectively conceded defeat in next month’s Clacton by-election, where Douglas Carswell – the first of the two UKIP defectors – is expected to hold on. But they do not intend to let go of Mark Reckless’s seat in Rochester and Strood without a fight.

For David Cameron, it’s personal. He told the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs: “I know what it’s like to follow someone who has defected to another party.”

He was referring to the former Tory MP, Shaun Woodward, who defected to Labour before the 2001 general election, creating a vacancy in Witney, which David Cameron filled. Mention of Woodward’s name produced hisses from the audience, which turned to cheers as Cameron declared: “We go to Rochester, and we win that seat back.”

Is the Way Forward really £6 a pint?

No one is more angry with Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless than Conservative Way Forward, the pressure group whose website still lists Margaret Thatcher as honorary president as if she had never died – perhaps because to them, she never will. Guests arriving at their midnight reception, in the sweltering heat of the Sonata Suite in Birmingham’s Hyatt Regency hotel, where the beer costs more than £6 a pint, were handed lanyards bearing the words “Thank You, Lady Thatcher” and “Are You One of Us?”

Wily old Fawkes gets behind closed doors

“Political reporting on a day to day basis is conducted in the main via the Westminster lobby system. This is an unhealthy and closed system lacking in transparency, conducted behind closed doors,” Paul Staines, founder of the Guido Fawkes blog site warned the Leveson Inquiry. One can only imagine how this principled outsider would react if he knew about the reception for political editors that David Cameron and the Chief Whip Michael Gove held, behind closed doors. And yet, engrossed in conversation with the PM at that event was a person who bore an uncanny resemblance to Paul Staines. Must be a doppelganger.

Fabricant ‘overlooked’ in Newmark sting

The freelance journalist who lured Brooks Newmark into making an idiot of himself has yet to be identified. Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard, who is lodging a complaint with the press regulator, says he knows who it was but is not going to out him – though other MPs whom the journalist tried the same sting on have been identified. They do not include Michael Fabricant, who tweeted: I am feeling overlooked and ignored. No-one has contacted me…”