Tory Conference Diary: When Boris Johnson gets a standing ovation, it’s because the party faithful actually mean it


The measure of Boris Johnson’s popularity among the Tory faithful is not that he gets a standing ovation at the start and finish of every speech – they do that for George Osborne too, out of respect – it is the way they scream as they applaud. He is the only politician who makes Tory activists behave like pubescent girls at a rock concert.

Part of his magic is that he tells genuinely funny jokes, and delivers them well. At the ConservativeHome fringe last night, he told them the definition of a millisecond – the time it takes Ed Miliband to follow an instruction from Len McCluskey. And of a millimetre – the maximum distance that Ed Miliband deviates from the instructions he gets from Unite. And a millipede – a left-wing insect.

He also suggested that Tories who switch their support to Ukip are sleepwalking to a Labour government. “Ukip if you want to: David Cameron is not for kipping,” he declared. Then he added, as if the thought had only just occurred to him: “Unless, obviously, he is at his sister-in-law’s wedding.”

If the Tory party chose leaders on the basis of who makes them laugh, Boris J would be the only contender.

Perry’s too busy for Bloom

Asked on the BBC’s World at One whether she is a “slut”, under the definition used by the ex-Ukip MEP Godfrey Bloom, the Tory MP Claire Perry said she preferred to think of herself as “a busy, working woman”. In addition to her constituency work in Devizes, her role as a mother, and her energetic campaign to protect children from sexual and commercial exploitation, she has been moving house.

A Marlborough-based estate agent announced that she had bought one of the houses they had up for sale, and unintentionally gave away enough detail for a news website to work out which house. She does not want her new home address publicised, so suffice it to say it is a very fine house, in a small village, for which the asking price is £1.6m. That is too grand a pile to qualify for assistance under the Help to Buy scheme.

Clarke still up for the fight

The word around Westminster was that one of the most enduring figures on the Conservative benches was on the point of calling it a day. Ken Clarke has been Tory MP for Rushcliffe, in Nottinghamshire, since 1970, and has the unique record of having held office under every Conservative prime minister from Edward Heath onwards.

It turns out that he is not through yet. He has told the Nottingham Post that, contrary to speculation, he will fight another general election, his 12th, which means that he is likely to be an MP until he is a few days short of his 80th birthday.

Campbell reboots

Tony Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell has been at his first Conservative conference for 20 years, promoting his novel, My Name Is..., which people who have read it  say is good.

It is a little known fact that the first Alastair Campbell novel got lost in a computer. It was written on an Amstrad, which was very popular in the mid-1980s and from which Alan Sugar made his first million. As the opus approached completion, a button was touched that should have been left untouched, and whoosh – not a word was ever recovered.

The Brady punchline

Oh, the jolly humour that enlivened the Chancellor’s conference speech. He was introduced by Karren Brady, of The Apprentice fame, as “the only man that I would happily be an apprentice for” – to which the Chancellor riposted: “You’re hired!” Gerrit? Osborne went on to describe the Miliband brothers as “Cain and not very Abel”, which drew a laugh. Since it was Cain who killed Abel, the logical implication is that he was accusing David Miliband of being not very able. I don’t think he meant that: it needs a bit more work.