(1) The Conference did not start well.  There were significant sound problems but the video wall is terrific.  Pictured above is NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg when he addressed the Winter Gardens this afternoon.  The Spectator’s James Forsyth interpreted the Bloomberg invite as potentially offensive to our Republican allies across the pond.  I disagree.  It’s good to have the mayor of one of the world’s greatest cities address our party.

(2) William Hague has a rival as best conference speaker.  Most people I’ve spoken to in the bars thought Boris Johnson stole the day.  That’s certainly Sky’s view.

(3) "Rebalancing" is the word that describes this week.  Alongside the modernising emphasis on a gentler, greener conservatism there’s lots of talk of lower taxation and a very tough approach to crime.   There’s even rebalancing in the wardrobes of the über-modernisers.  Francis Maude was spotted wearing a tie!  Theresa May’s boots must win the overall award for surprising wardrobe choice, however.  Click here for a photo.

(4) Accreditation has been much, much better than last year but I did snap this photo earlier and there have been one or two horror stories.

(5) The latest ConservativeHome survey of members pointed to a 3 to 1 preference for loyalty over candour from MPs.  Michael Ancram’s decision not to give any interviews has been widely noted.  There is a general hunger for unity here in Blackpool.

(6) I was on a panel earlier this evening with Peter Oborne, Nick Herbert and Jeremy Hunt – discussing David Cameron’s relations with the grassroots.  Tune into tomorrow’s World at One on Radio 4 for highlights.  The meeting came alive when one activist accused the BBC of systematic bias against the Conservatives.  I almost felt sorry for Martha Kearney – such was the hostility that the audience felt for the BBC.

(7) There’s one question everyone is asking: Are you a yes or a no person?  I’m still a yes person and think Gordon Brown will look very diminished if he doesn’t now call an autumn election.  I was on the Westminster Hour tonight and learnt that there is now talk of Britain’s first Sunday General Election.  There is a rumour that Brown will recall Parliament for a statement on troop draw-downs in Iraq, a vote to authorise an election and enabling legislation for a Sunday poll.

(8) The men’s toilets are full of photos of James Purnell photoshopped on to images of great world events.  Silly, yes but quite funny.

(9) Blackpool is not in good shape for the final scheduled visit by any major political party for its annual conference.  I hope the recent switch of political control – to the Conservatives – will do something to restore this once fine seaside resort… but it’s going to take a lot of enterprise and time.  Floodlighting the Tower in blue for the week is a nice touch.

(10)  It’s 11.45pm and I’m off to bed.  My guess is that 99% of other conference-goers will still be drinking for a few hours yet but my day began at 7am with an interview with BBC Breakfast telly and I need my sleep!

8 comments for: Ten quick observations from day one

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