Conservative Conference Sketch: Grant Shapps makes cross - and absolutely no jokes

The party Chairman ungraciously omitted to thank the billionaire tycoons who had given whopping big individual donations

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There’s something slightly implausible about “The Right Honourable Grant Shapps”, as he was introduced on Sunday. There’s the aliases of his colourful business past, and the shopworn gags (“Ed Balls... who can hardly drive a car without crashing it, let alone the economy. Literally, the hit-and-run shadow Chancellor!”). Maybe it’s why it was decided that he should share the stage with party loyalists dressed in patriotic woolly jumpers of RAF blue emblazoned with Union flags.

They almost proved a distraction from just how jolly cross Grant was. Far from denying defector Mark Reckless the oxygen of publicity, Shapps went on and on: “We have been betrayed”; “He lied and he lied and he lied”; and “The people of Rochester and Strood have been cast aside”. (A claim that only works if the “people of Rochester and Strood” don’t vote Reckless back in.)

Having dispatched the traitor Reckless, he praised adherents to the true path, like “our fantastic Chief Whip, Michael Gove” (whose lunch-fuelled “charm offensive”, Shapps tactfully didn’t say, failed to stop Reckless from jumping ship), and his co-chairman Andrew Feldman, for making the party “debt free”. The activist audience applauded –  decent of them since these are just the people reportedly once described in private by Feldman as “swivel-eyed loons”.

Shapps then thanked “hundreds of thousands” of “ordinary people” for their “small individual donations of £5, £10 and £20”. For some reason, he ungraciously omitted to thank the billionaire tycoons who had given whopping big individual donations.

Later, William Hague’s farewell conference speech was preceded by “Hague the movie” which replayed – among other greatest hits – his 1999 Commons suggestion that Tony Blair make Labour nominee Frank Dobson his “day mayor” and rival Ken Livingstone his “nightmare”. Few politicians make jokes as well as the departing Hague. Least of all, whatever his other hidden qualities, Grant Shapps.