When George Osborne came in during a Big Society session, the photographers turned on him like jackals. They crushed into the people in the front seats of the Symphony Hall, sticking their big bazookas to within a foot of their subject's face. They crouched, they huddled, they mounted each other to get a better camera position. The Chancellor coped surprisingly well with the situation. Broadly speaking. He didn't hit anyone, for instance. But it's early yet.
Half way down the hall there was cause for a double take. David Cameron – he's the Prime Minister, you know – was sitting with Lady Warsi watching the speeches. Not at the front in the most important position but in the inconspicuous middle. And unless the baroness had an Uzi in her underwear he was unprotected by security.
Tony Blair couldn't have pulled it off. Blair would have sat there with added modesty – ostentatious modesty. He'd have created a special posture of glottal-free humility laced with I'll-buy-your-house-mateyness. You can't be sure, but Cameron looked completely unrehearsed.
So, here we are at the Titni conference (Together in the National Interest). They're not all Titnis but this is neither the time nor place for the Tory right to make trouble.
I'd come to see Eric Pickles – a Titni – mainly to get a close-up of his strange, phallic head. But I'd no idea what a good speaker he is. He can do the light and shade, the high and low, the soft and shouty. It's the advantage of age and experience over youth and enthusiasm (I declare an interest).
He'd been preceded by a performance of north Indian dance. The lead dancer, gorgeous in her gold earrings and rich, Rajastani colours, said the dance was to "rid us of violence, jealousy, greed and anger". Judging by the lack of mass resignation from the party, it didn't work at once. But it might have suggested that the party had severed any atavistic connection to the BNP.
The deputy head of the Titnis, William Hague, arrived to give us the Athanasian Creed of Toryism, and did it well enough to get his pilgrim soldiers marching. From Disraeli to Mrs Thatcher the Conservative party has done what was necessary. Mass voting in the earlier example and destroying "the failed orthodoxy" of the 1970s more latterly.
We also learnt that bureaucracy is to be swept away and red tape abolished. Common sense will be restored. Lord Young won much applause, but any reliance on the return of common sense smacks of psychotic optimism.
There were lots of newsy announcements. I didn't know councils were to be allowed to borrow against future income. That sounds a bit optimistic to us who remember them betting on interest rate swaps. Psychotically optimistic, perhaps.Reuse content