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Lord Ashcroft

A pleasure, as always, for me to greet Boris before his rally, which has become an unmissable feature of the ConHome conference programme. This year, London’s export markets were among the Mayor’s principal themes. “We send TV aerials to South Korea. Cakes to France. Piers Morgan to America. And flip-flops from Wandsworth to Australia, where for some reason they call them thongs. As in, “you’ve got a nice thong there, Lynton.” We will try not to dwell on that.

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Loyal Conservative though he is, Boris was aggrieved never to have been approached to defect to another party. “There have been no secret talks with the Clegger.” His own victory made him optimistic about the general election: “I was totally amazed to be elected Mayor of London. And I know a lot of Londoners were amazed too.”

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Jacob Rees-Mogg has never been approached to defect either, he says, because the ‘Kippers know it would be a fruitless quest. “I am completely and utterly a Tory. There is nothing about me that is not Tory,” he assured Mehdi Hasan at a Huffington Post fringe event. “If there were only one person left in the Tory Party it would be me.” Was it true he had taken his nanny out campaigning with him in Fife? “Yes, of course I did. I’m very proud of Nanny, she’s part of the family. I’ve got two lefty sisters, they didn’t come, but Nanny’s political views are much sounder.” Would he describe himself as a climate sceptic? “Well, I think we should find out what the problems are and deal with them, rather than fanatically deciding to go and live in caves. Which I am broadly against.”

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Francis Maude continues his heroic mission of reforming the way government works, which he explained at an Institute of Government event in the ConHome marquee. “My Labour opposite number, Michael Dugher, said I was like a bull in a china shop or the man who wants to fight everyone in the pub at the same time. Which I took as a great compliment.” Francis is one of the longest serving ministers. “I’ve been in post for four-and-a-half years, despite Sir Humphrey’s attempts to have me moved on.” He has a bracing approach to reform and innovation, which is “just do it”. He calls it the JFDI school of government. I wonder what Sir Humphrey makes of that.

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