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Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publications, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.

How quickly we forget. Spied walking into Birmingham’s ICC, where the Conservative Party Conference was being held, was David Mundell, the Scottish Office Minister – who was immediately offered a Union Flag by one of the myriad of people determined to press their wares on unsuspecting conference goers. Mundell, however, was having none of it and waved it away. One suspects he wouldn’t have done that a fortnight ago!

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Clearly the Mail on Sunday subs desk was on holiday last weekend, and had no one to cast their eye over the text of their George Osborne interview. This passage slipped through the net. “He showed no such inhibition in an extraordinary candid interview with this newspaper. During his extraordinary interview with the Mail on Sunday…”. Truly extraordinary. May one suggest Roget’s Thesaurus?

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So a minister caught in the eye of the storm was replaced by an MP who had written a book called “In the eye of the storm” – and had originally been blackballed by the Prime Minister for publishing it during the week of the last reshuffle, something which cost him his first step on the ministerial ladder.

I am of course talking about Rob Wilson, MP for Reading East, who was appointed Minister for Civil Society on Saturday night to replace Brooks Newmark. Wilson had originally been earmarked to be Prisons Minister, but when Number Ten realised that “In the eye of the storm” was about to be published, it told him he had to choose between publishing the book or a job in government.

Since the book had already been sent to reviewers, he didn’t have much choice. David Cameron promised that he would be first on the list if a Minister resigned, but when Wilson saw two resignations pass with no phone call, he must have wondered if he was right to believe the Prime Minister’s pledge. None the less, he finally entered the government on Saturday – two months after he should have done. I sent him a text which contained just two words: “Justice prevails”.

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Bloody hell. £4.50 for a small egg mayonnaise roll in the ICC. And £8.65, if you add a bottle of Fanta and a Danish pastry. Daylight effin’ robbery. It turns out that the ICC had put all their prices up especially for the visit of the rich Tories. Next week the prices go down again. And to think CCHQ has signed up for three conferences in this dire building.

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Conor Burns, MP for Bournemouth West, was browsing the Blackwells bookshop at the conference and spied a tome called “How to manage your slaves”. Looking up, he remarked: “There’s one for the Prime Minister’s reading list”. He was clearly joking. Wasn’t he? Well, wasn’t he?!

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Tuesday morning arrives, and I receive a lovely email from Lord Feldman – he’s the other Chairman of the Conservative Party, in case it had escaped your notice. It informs everything that was going on at the conference that day. Nicky Morgan is speaking. So is Theresa May, so is Jeremy Hunt. And I can join an exclusive session so that he can reveal the party’s innermost general election plans. How exciting! But isn’t it strange how there is absolutely no mention of the fact that Boris Johnson is speaking that morning. Clearly nothing should be read into this. Nothing at all.

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My new book comes out at the end of the month. It’s called “The NHS: Things that need to be said.” I was invited this week to make a speech at a conference organised by something called the Westminster Health Forum.

According to its website, it “aims to provide the premier environment for policymakers in Parliament, Whitehall and government agencies to engage with key stakeholders in timely discussion on public policy relating to health and healthcare.”

Basically, it’s a private company seeking to make a profit. Nothing wrong with that, except that it pretends that is something else. Places at their conferences cost £210 pus VAT, and they get sponsorship for their events too. Strangely, though, they think that speakers should put in hours of work preparing a speech, and then deliver it for free. They say they don’t pay speakers so that they can retain their impartiality. That gave me a good laugh. Just as well media organisations don’t take that ridiculous stance, otherwise I’d be a pauper.

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Oh dear: the Bow Group decided to boycott the Conservative Party Conference. How it managed to survive without them, I just don’t know.

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Interviewing Lord Ashcroft is always a memorable experience. I particularly remember the time when he came on my evening show and I asked him a question he clearly didn’t want to answer – so he asked me about my porn collection (how did he know?!?). It’s rare that I am lost for words…

On Tuesday it happened again. The good Lord came on my LBC Drivetime show to talk about his polling and the next election. All was going well until he used the word ‘bullshit’ not once but three times within about ten seconds. OK, it’s not ‘f***’ or ‘c***’ – but at 5pm you can’t really get away with it in the way you could later in the evening. I found myself uttering words like “I think that’s enough of that, if you don’t mind,” as my producer saw his career disappearing in front of him. Still – no mention of the porn collection. Result!

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That’s nothing compared to what happened when Sir Christopher Meyer came on to talk about whether or not Brooks Newmark had been entrapped by the Sunday Mirror. He is, of course, a former chairman of the Press Complaints Commission. The interview was going well until the point when he described what had happened as a “cock and bull story”. I looked at him expecting to see a twinkle in his eye, but he clearly hadn’t realised what he had said. “So to speak…” was the only response I could think of. He then cottoned on, and we both dissolved into fits of giggles for a few seconds. Live radio. You can’t beat it.

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I caught the obligatory conference cold while in Manchester at Labour, and still haven’t shaken it off. But I imagine that the joy and delight of travelling up to Glasgow to spend 48 hours with the LibDems next week ought to do it. You can imagine how much I and the whole political lobby are looking forward to the LibDem conference. The phrase “after the Lord Mayor’s show” doesn’t quite cover it. Still, plenty of opportunity for mischief.

 

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