Tory conference: Any old Iron Lady for sale in the party's curiosity shop

 

Say what you like about the Tories but they do have a sense of humour. The highlight of this year's conference will be the "Our Maggie" souvenir shop, an emporium of Thatcher-themed tat endorsed by the party.

True devotees of the Iron Lady may feel a handbag-shaped beer mat is not the best way to commemorate Britain's boldest post-war prime minister. But surely she, of anyone, would have cheered the spirit of enterprise?

Details of the goodies on offer are being kept under wraps until today's launch, but we've had a sneak preview. There's a money box for saving pennies, bearing the slogan "The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money". Then there's a tasteful key ring, bearing a picture of a waving Baroness Thatcher. And for younger members, there's a babygro sporting the words "Little Iron Lady" in neon pink, and a blue bib which reads "Iron baby".

Coming almost six months after Lady Thatcher's death, this year's Conservative Party conference was always going to be a festival of nostalgia. It opens today with a 10-minute tribute video featuring misty-eyed memories from David Cameron and George Osborne, sporting his new severe haircut. Charles Moore will be on hand to sign his authorised biography, and the Blackwell's tent plays host to signings by me-too authors, including Matthew d'Ancona and Iain Dale, who last week received a police caution for clobbering a member of the public.

Damian Barr, author of the acclaimed memoir Maggie and Me, will not be there, but is unsurprised at the commercialisation of the former PM. "My favourite item is a Thatcher candle-snuffer I saw the other day," he says, "for bringing darkness where there's light."

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