Tories toast the past with Maggie, but the future is pasta chez Dave

Canapes with Baroness Thatcher are so Eighties. Young leadership hopeful David Cameron aims to seduce supporters with lasagne

One, stiff and engraved, is effectively to say goodbye to a former leader. The other is a summons to the home of the party's newest, brightest star.

That the Queen and Tony Blair have been persuaded to attend Baroness Thatcher's 80th birthday party testifies that it is likely to be her last major public outing. They are among 650 guests gathering in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel's gold-embossed ballroom on Thursday.

Others include most of her former Cabinet colleagues and showbusiness stalwarts such as June Whitfield and Sir Tim Rice.

The party is being organised by Lady Elizabeth Anson, who hosted her 70th birthday party at Claridge's. Then the guests, who included Sir Michael Caine and Frederick Forsyth, sat down to a full meal. Thursday's event is limited to two hours of drinks.

And although the Hyde Park hotel will ring to the sound of the Tories' 1980s hey-days on Thursday, it is the other, less grand, invitation that is the hotter ticket.

It is to join "Dave" and "Sam" Cameron at their Ladbroke Grove home for a plate of lasagne and a few bottles of good - but not outstanding - wine. The young contender is inviting select groups of undecided MPs to his west London home for a series of dinner parties. Just as Tony Blair used his Georgian townhouse in Islington to seduce allies, so, a decade later, his would-be successor is clinching support for his leadership bid over supper.

"I would say it is more homely than chi-chi but all the more charming for that," reports one MP who admits he was won over in the course of a dinner party chez Cameron.

As "Sam", 34, helped prepare a simple lasagne in the kitchen, "Dave" poured wine into modern glassware and set to work persuading the new MPs he should be the next Tory leader.

Although the 39-year-old received a huge boost at last week's Conservative Party conference in Blackpool, he still must persuade his parliamentary colleagues he should make the final run-off.

He will receive the backing of Steven Norris today - a further sign that he is being embraced by modernisers - and is expected to land a "big-name" endorsement in the coming days.

Meanwhile, David Davis is coming under mounting pressure to revitalise his flagging campaign. "We weren't even at the races," said a Davis backer yesterday. "Cameron's campaign was much hungrier, more media-savvy - just better in every department."

In a sign that the former frontrunner is beginning to panic, he has sidelined campaign manager Andrew Mitchell MP. David Willetts and Damian Green have been brought in to help stem the flow. In a bid to prevent defections, publicly declared Davis-backers are being invited to an event in Westminster on Tuesday. "We don't know if it will be a party or a wake," said one grimly.

The one hope for Mr Cameron's leadership rivals was provided last week by his refusal to answer questions on whether he had taken drugs at university. "I had a normal university experience, if you could put it like that," he told a fringe meeting.

His careful choice of words ensured that his time at Oxford is likely to receive close media attention as MPs prepare for the contest, which begins a week on Tuesday. It was with former Oxford friends and family that Cameron celebrated his 39th birthday last night at his constituency home with a dinner of roast pork.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Parts Sales Advisor - OTE 18k-23k

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of Ford's leading Parts Who...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to learn ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Lead

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading providers of w...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders