Conservative conference diary: A year is a very long time in politics


Annus horribilis

Some people have all the fun. But not Eric Pickles. The 59-year-old said he had totted up all the conferences and spring forums and calculated he'd spent an entire year of his life at one Tory talking shop or another. Some of the rioters got less time in prison.



Nick McCleggness

If Nick Clegg wants tips on beefing up his role, a former IRA leader might offer inspiration, apparently. "Clegg needs to be less John Prescott and more Martin McGuiness," says a Tory minister, suggesting he mirror the Deputy First Minister's role of running Northern Ireland jointly with the First Minister. Except McGuinness stood down last month. Are the Tories trying to tell Clegg something?



No Ken do

Further signs that Ken Clarke could end up defecting to the Lib Dems. A joke is going around the Foreign Office that the coalition's views on Europe "stretch from Iain Duncan Smith to Ken Clarke, with the Lib Dems somewhere in between".



Rigour snigger

"It's a long, hard road back to rigour, but we're on our way," David Cameron boasted of his schools reforms. But does anyone know what he's on about? Nigel Fletcher, who worked for DC in opposition, claims his old boss was always a fan of "rigour" in education. "Polling once showed us many people didn't understand the word," Fletcher reveals. "He didn't care."



Suited and booted

After a busy week for Team Dave, one member is smartening up his act. Steve Hilton, usually seen in shorts, was spotted at No 10 drinks in a suit. "Well, jacket, tie and jeans," says our fashion spy.

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