Though we all refer to what is happening in Manchester as the "Conservative Party Conference", it is not, actually. It is a conference of people who have gathered to lobby it or observe the Conservatives. There are 11,500 people accredited to be in the conference hall, of whom 4,000 – a little over a third – are Conservatives, Tim Montgomerie, founder of the ConservativeHome website, pointed out at a fringe meeting yesterday. The rest are representatives of the media, or various commercial interests or people with a cause to promote. When the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith led a question-and-answer session, supposedly for party members, every single question came from someone representing an outside interest.
One reason is that the average unpaid local party representative cannot afford to be there. ConservativeHome has done a breakdown of the estimated cost and has calculated that being in Manchester for the week costs an average of £722.50 – including £80 which the party charges as a registration fee.
I still love you, Rupert...
Rupert Murdoch is presumed to be so unloved in the wake of the hacking scandal that News International cancelled its annual beano in Manchester for fear that no senior Tory would turn up, even for the free booze. But he is not completely without admirers. "I'm a great admirer of Rupert Murdoch, he's a force of nature, a phenomenon, he's a great man," the Education Secretary Michael Gove said, though he added that being a Murdoch fan is as lonely as being a Conservative in Scotland in the 1980s. Gove is a former News Editor of The Times.
The heavy hand of Hilton...
After george Osborne's speech yesterday, the BBC was anxious to hear the reaction of the Tory MP Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the Commons treasury committee, who has spoken boldly this week against the absence of a plan for economic growth. James Landale, the BBC's deputy political editor, caught Mr Tyrie in the corridor, but just as they were about to speak, along came a gaggle of four Downing Street advisers including Steve Hilton, who slapped a proprietary hand on Tyrie's shoulder and led him away to hold an intense conversation. Both sides absolutely deny that he was being told what he could or could not say.
Baroness Warsi's got your number
The Conservatives have had a brilliant idea to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600, knowing that they would benefit at the expense of Labour and the Lib Dems. But when the Boundary Commission's findings came through, there were howls of protest from the Tory MPs whose seats are to disappear. Yesterday, the party chairman, Baroness Warsi, right, conceded that "some of the proposals are insane". But she was not blaming the Government. Oh no, she was blaming the Boundary Commission whose task is to put the scheme into effect.
What's blue and pink all over?
The party has become so relaxed about homosexuality that you see Government ministers strolling around the conference with their gay partners and no one thinks it remarkable. But it was not always thus, as is recorded in a new book launched during the conference, 'Tory Pride and Prejudice' by Michael McManus, who starts his story in the supposedly liberated 1960s. "I cannot stand homosexuals. I think they are the most disgusting people in the world," the Earl of Dudley told the Lords in 1966. "Prison is much too good a place for them; in fact, that is a place where many of them like to go – for obvious reasons." Even in 1999, the former Home Secretary, David Waddington, was telling the House of Lords that "sodomy is not the moral equivalent of sexual intercourse between a man and a woman". If there are any more such people still in the party at least they now keep their opinions to themselves.