Conference diary: Back to the 80s, complete with soundtrack

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Indy Politics

"It has a 1980s feel to it," an experienced MP said yesterday. He meant the quietly triumphal sense pervading Manchester that the Tories are masters again. More than 12,000 people have passes, compared with 10,500 at last week's Labour bash in Brighton. Firms and charities with exhibition stands number 118, up from 80.

*Bags of gifts handed out to conference delegates contain a Gordon Brown magnet, from which you are invited to construct your own slogan using words such as "hate", "blame", "comrades", "porkies" and "broken". A tea towel declaring "Big Government = Big Problems" should banish erroneous ideas about good public services being more important than tax cuts.

*Another symptom of Cameronian political correctness: don't be seen enjoying yourself. Of old, the Tories knew how to mix politics with pleasure. It was at one conference that one of John Major's ministers, Tim Yeo, begat a love child whose arrival struck the first blow to the "Back to Basics" campaign. Piers Merchant, the ex-Tory MP who died last month, spent one conference in bed with a teenager, unaware their pleasures were being secretly filmed. Another Tory MP, Nick Scott, ended his career at a conference after being found kissing the pavement after the Irish embassy reception. Those days are no more, if a ruling by Chairman Pickles takes effect. He told the faithful to look "humble", and wants "less champagne bubbles and more bubbling activity".

n "Which bit of it doesn't he fucking get?" said Paul Weller after David Cameron claimed he loved The Jam's protest song "Eton Rifles". He would have been displeased had he heard his old Style Council hit "Shout To The Top" greet the Tory faithful as they assembled yesterday. It was written in 1984 before he co-founded Red Wedge, an association of artists dedicated to bringing down the Tory government.