Conference diary

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Indy Politics

PREPARATIONS AFOOT

The Tories may have been told to go away and prepare for government (as David Steel once famously instructed the Liberals) but the Ulster Unionists are preparing for a hung parliament.

The DUP leader, Ian Paisley, and his wife, Lady Paisley, a life peer in the Lords, have been carefully cultivating contacts with the Tories all week.Asked what he would do in a hung parliament, Mr Paisley said he would expect to work closely with the Conservatives.

Tories confided that if the arithmetic is tricky after the next election, then David Cameron could be calling on the DUP's veteran firebrand to allow him to go to the Queen to form a government.

BIRTHDAY GIRL

The Asda executive and Tory candidate Mark Menzies marched into the Tory "Dragon's Den" to be quizzed by a panel of experts, including The Independent's Michael Brown, and won the audience's electronic vote for his policy of removing VAT from energy-saving light bulbs. But surely the thing that swung his audience was his courage - he kissed the formidable Ann Widdecombe saying it was her birthday. He gallantly did not mention the number of years (56).

WHAT THE OAK?

The party chairman, Francis Maude, was ticked off by Ms Widdecombe when he was about to go on stage wearing paint-spattered clothes after working on the church hall the Tories have been refurbishing as part of their "social responsibility" agenda. "What is the Tory Party coming to?" she wondered out loud. A lot of supporters baffled by the "oak tree" makeover left Bournemouth saying the same thing.

WHO YOU GONNA CALL?

Dave Cameron may need to call in the Ghostbusters for the army of former MPs who lost seats in 1997 but still haunt conference. Ex-MPs outnumbered sitting ones this week. They even included Helen Brinton, the deselected Labour MP, representing the MS society. None of the ex-Tory MPs are on Cameron's A-list of candidates. They are not the New Tories who Sunshine Dave wants in Parliament: Sorry, old boys, politically you're goners.

LIGHTEN UP

So much for the careful security checks by Dorset Police which led to chaos at the conference with delays for passes lasting days. A blogger, Paul Staines, was given a pass in the name of his online alias, Guido Fawkes. Presumably, the checks did not go back to 1605 when his namesake was responsible for the Gunpowder Plot.

FISHY BUSINESS

Sheila Gunn, who was John Major's spin doctor, ignored Cameron's politically correct support for Jamie Oliver's healthy eating. She showed a group of foreign visitors the best of British culture, with a trip to Harry Ramsden's on the beach at Bournemouth for some VIP fish and chips.

BROUGHT TO BOOK

James Landale, the BBC political correspondent, has been in Bournemouth covering the conference while nursing a secret ambition to emulate the poet Hilaire Belloc, who warned children against lying, eating bits of string and leaving nursey in a crowd. Landale's Cautionary Tales - Comic Verse for the Twenty-First Century "brings Belloc up to date", said the TV newsman. However his plug for his book could backfire with BBC bosses. It offers "fresh poetic advice to address the sins of the modern child, namely drinking, smoking, swearing, taking drugs, watching too much television..." Ouch.

JOKE OF THE WEEK

"It's been a great week - even Boris made it until Tuesday afternoon before he put his foot in it." David Cameron

PARTY OF THE WEEK

BBC bash at the Highcliff where Jon Culshaw got the loudest cheer for his hilarious Bush impression: "I am deliterated to be here..."

GAFFE OF THE WEEK

Dorset Police, for delays in clearing passes, which led to huge queues. VIPs reported to be inconvenienced include the deputy US ambassador, the High Commissioner of Bangladesh, author Michael Dobbs, Lord King, the health spokesman Andrew Lansley, the former leadership contender Sir Malcolm Rifkind, and the BBC presenter Huw Edwards. Iain Duncan Smith was so fed up waiting for his allies to get in for a fringe meeting that he moved it to the pass office.

MUG OF THE WEEK

Boris Johnson. The blond bombshell's portrait in typical pose (holding his head in his hands) made the mug for Conservative Future the best seller at the merchandise counter. At £6 it was skipping off the shelves.

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