Conference Highlights

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Indy Politics

Most generous man

Most generous man

Chris Heaton-Harris, Tory candidate in Leicester South, who has spent hundreds of pounds buying drinks for the legions of activists who came to help him in the failed by-election. One round cost Mr Heaton-Harris £100 after a crowd of thirsty Tories ordered "turbo shandies". "You fill the glass half up with beer and then add a Smirnoff ice. It's expensive," disclosed the out-of-pocket MEP, who may be forced to do a few shifts in his old job selling fruit and veg in New Covent Garden Market to pay the bill.

Vote Yes

With his shoulder-length blond hair, Rick Wakeman, a fiftysomething rock star, cuts an unlikely figure at the conference. The Yes keyboard player, infamous for his lengthy solos and staging rock operas on ice, is now immersed in the more mundane world of Tory politics. So dedicated is he that he is about to scale back touring and pursue his dream of becoming a Euro MP.

Risqué Tories

The saucy innuendo behind the Tory rebrand is raising blood pressure in the conference hall. One activist was heard remarking that the party's Elvis theme tune, "A little less conversation" (a little more action), is not about policy delivery after all. Meanwhile, one octogenarian, wearing a badge declaring Tories "Do it Better", shot a mischievous glance through his bifocals at a tweedy female septogenarian activist who harrumphed with disapproval.

Crime wave

David Cameron, the party's strategist, is particularly committed to Michael Howard's promised blitz on crime. He was phoned in the small hours with news that his London home had been burgled. He added ruefully: "Things have changed. Ten years ago, they would have left my Skoda standing outside. This time they drove off in it."

Airbrushed out

Damian Green, who resigned from the Shadow Cabinet, has been hastily replaced in a reprint of the conference agenda with a montage of three hungry-looking pigs.

Most conspicuous absence

Boris Johnson, the Tories' waggish Culture spokesman, who is apparently cross after being deprived of a speaking slot, rumour has it because he might upstage colleagues with too many jokes.

Heading for a discount?

Tory clubs are being marketed an unframed portrait of Michael Howard for their office walls, a snip at £35. Clubs have quietly filed away portraits of William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith. Cruel types were heard remarking: "Whose portrait will they be selling next year?"

Guest appearance

Staff at the swanky Royal Bath hotel are baffled by the level of security. "What day is Tony Blair arriving?" they asked one guest.

Quote of the day

"Most people don't actually want a date with destiny, they just want a date with a dentist" - Michael Howard.

Good advice of the day

The former cabinet minister Lord Deedes, 91, who, asked at a fringe meeting how the Tories could win the next election, told activists: "Cheer up."

Good sports

Tory MPs and candidates wearing loafers and suit trousers scored a surprise 27-24 win over the UK's Paralympic basketball team, who left Athens with a bronze medal, in a charity match on the seafront. "We expected the paralympians to win," said a disability charity spokeswoman. "We think some cheating was going on."

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