Birmingham Diary: Battle joined with the BBC as the baroness backs off

The first row between the Conservatives and the BBC started yesterday even before the Conference had officially opened. Tory spin doctors could be heard moaning that the live interview with the party chairman, Baroness Warsi, on BBC1's lunchtime Politics Show, was a "bear pit".

Anyone watching could see that the Baroness was not enjoying the line of questioning by the BBC's Jon Sopel about her astonishing claim, made earlier in an interview with the New Statesman, that there are three MPs in the current Parliament who should not be there, because their victories were obtained by electoral fraud.

When questioned, she would not name the MPs, she produced no supporting evidence, she would not say whether she had discussed the allegations with the police or the Electoral Commission, nor would she even say whether she stood by what she said. As the questioning became more insistent, she came out with the immortal line: "I think I'm saying what I've said."

Still, good to see the Baroness here at all. Last week, she pulled out of Question Time at short notice. Some people thought this was to save her from putting her foot in her mouth again, but we are told it was actually because of an eye complaint. That must have completely cleared up, because she looked fine.

Quote of the day: 'Why do you keep calling me hapless?'

The Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, talking to a journalist from the Daily Mirror, unable to see himself as others see him. Last month, Mr Shapps announced new powers for local residents to jump the council house queue ahead of immigrants. It was a gaffe: town halls already have the power to do this.

Exotic dancers fail to impress Tories

It is not all that many years since you went the full four or five days of a Conservative conference without seeing a single representative or visitor who was not white. Times have now changed so much, and for the better, that this conference opened with a performance of Indian Kathak dancing. Sadly, the effect was spoiled by the surprisingly large number of representatives who sat through it with their noses buried in newspapers.

The most popular leader ever

If David Cameron is looking relaxed, that is partly because he has the highest satisfaction rating of any Tory leader.

When this good news was conveyed to him, he quipped: "I think I might quit while I'm ahead." He won't, of course. They never do.

What is he doing here?

Dudley North MP and ex-Brown spin doctor, Ian Austin, when asked what he was doing here: "Shopping. I live nearby."

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