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Iain Martin's Conference Diary: Monday

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Who had the duck?

Desperate for a quiet night out in Manchester, the Prime Minister and his top team booked into the basement of a Chinese restaurant on Saturday evening. Alas, David Cameron, his wife Samantha, Steve Hilton, chief of staff Ed Lewellyn, gatekeeper Kate Fall and Chancellor George Osborne found themselves seated adjacent to a motley seventeen-strong crew of gossipy political journalists and assorted naughty special advisers who had, by coincidence, chosen the same venue.

It meant the PM got no peace and it gave the hacks a ringside seat when the waitress tried to hand the bill to his party.

Claims a witness (speaking between mouthfuls of chicken fried rice): “First she tried George Osborne. But presented with the bill, the Chancellor just grinned inanely as though he had never seen such a thing in his life. The waitress presented it to Kate Fall, but got no joy. A brief discussion or argument then ensued. It looked as though they were attempting to make Steve Hilton put it on his credit card.”

I know we live in an age of austerity and that time are tough, but surely the PM’s team can afford to go dutch on a Chinese? 

Conservative members interested in politics, shock

News of the government’s “openness and transparency” drive seems not yet to have made it to CCHQ. Members have been demanding a proper role in the formulation of the party’s manifesto for the next election. CCHQ discovered this when it conducted a survey to find out what motivates Conservative activists: “Astonishingly, members are interested in politics and policy and not just social occasions,” says a leading Tory.

This presents CCHQ with a problem. Just imagine what the manifesto would look like if it was put together by Conservative activists. It would involve tax cuts and be tough on Europe and tough on the causes of Europe. (Hold on, actually that sounds rather appealing.)

The compromise cooked up by the leadership is a lame series of behind closed doors sessions at conference on the economy and education policy, held under the aegis of the Conservative Policy Forum.

So this means members will get their say? Er... sort of. Says a CCHQ source: “Contributions from members are strictly limited to ninety seconds.” 

Warsi watch

I'm sorry to say that Baroness Warsi's press releases get no better. Yesterday I reported here that the under-fire party chairman, who awaits the reshuffle with a certain trepidation, has embarked on a campaign to save her job. It seems to mainly involve releasing press statements of such excruciating loyalty and mind-bending banality that they look as though they have been generated automatically by a computer ‘app’ at CCHQ.

But as conference goes on they are actually getting worse. Here is the latest: “Ask every parent, every mother, every father, and every family. Give them the choice: the good life now or a stable, secure future for your children. They would choose children. We would choose children.”

Good grief. It’s like that sentimental number by Whitney Houston, “The Greatest Love of All”, in which the American chanteuse caterwauls that she believes “the children are our future.”

But Warsi doesn’t stop there: “This government is building for tomorrow as well as today.”

Is someone senior in the CCHQ press operation with a grudge putting out this stuff deliberately?


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