Birmingham Diary: Tory fringe despair at antics of Coalition Cameroons

Representatives at the Conservative conference are not all seething with rancour over the compromises they have had to make through being in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, but a lively minority are. Nearly 150 gathered in a side hall yesterday to hear the Tory MEP Roger Helmer and the Daily Mail's Melanie Phillips denounce David Cameron for not setting Britain on a course that would get us out of the EU.

Helmer accused the Home Secretary, Theresa May, of being complicit in an "outrageous infringement of our personal liberty" by signing an order that gives other EU jurisdictions access to the DNA and personal records of British suspects. The Tory promise not to devolve any more powers to Brussels without a referendum is "an outrageous piece of spin," he added. And Eastern Europe is finding "they are ruled by Brussels in much the same way as they were ruled by Moscow". To rousing applause, Helmer concluded: "I start to despair for my party and my country."

One quite young woman in the audience was not sure that the EU was the most urgent issue. "We need to deal with this war that the Cameroons are waging against the rest of their party," she suggested.

Mel Phillips was yet more eloquent. "Look at those Cameroons – they are so desperate for power they will do anything to stay in it," she declared.

"What is the point of the Conservative Party if it no longer understands what is there to conserve and against whom?"

She also drew a parallel between those who supported Stalin in the 1950s and those who believe in man-made climate change.

Quote of the day

"Oliver Letwin has reaffirmed the Coalition's pledge to become the greenest government ever." – press release issued by Mr Letwin's spin doctor after he got himself on to the conference platform alongside the Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman. Read that to mean: "I want this woman's job."

Sorry, wrong conference

The Conservative conference logo, with its Union Jack motif, is causing comment because of its startling resemblance to a map of Northern Ireland. A minister was heard to say: "I thought I had wandered into the wrong conference by mistake. I thought it was the Ulster Unionists."

What's she doing here?

On the street outside the conference is parked the mobile surgery of Nikki Sinclaire, MEP for the West Midlands. She was elected to the European Parliament for the UK Independence Party last year, ran for the party leadership, lost, fell out with her colleagues, got expelled, and now styles herself an independent. She was collecting signatures for a petition to get out of the EU, and getting a reasonable response.

Grieve falls for the elephant trap

Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General, has a good record for defending civil liberties, but whether he can be called a smart party politician is open to question. Speaking at a fringe meeting yesterday, he said: "People have entitlement to privacy. They have an entitlement that confidential conversations..." At this point, Shami Chakrabarti, of Liberty, laid an elephant trap for him by asking: "On their mobile phones?" Dominic Grieve fell right in. "Mobile phone can't be hacked into or broadcast," he said. But they could when Andy Coulson was editing the News of the World.

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