(1) One by-product of Gordon Brown’s constant politicking is the galvanising effect he has had on the Conservative Party. Faced with the imminent threat of a General Election the party has come together. We’ve also unveiled a whole series of popular policies. Reports of the Conservative Party’s death are exaggerated.
(2) David Davis will be particularly glad that the Conservatives won’t be returning to Blackpool any time soon. Two years ago he stood on the Wintergardens stage and gave a lacklustre speech that did nothing to dampen the feverish enthusiasm for David Cameron’s leadership bid. The Shadow Home Secretary underperformed again yesterday. As today’s Sun concludes: "A Shadow Home Secretary should be able to take a long, loud standing ovation for granted. Not this one. Far from bringing them to their feet, Mr Davis almost sent delegates to sleep with a long, limp repetition of old policies."
(3) William Hague never has any trouble delivering a speech that delights the Conference. After Sunday’s attack on Brown the Shadow Foreign Secretary spoke yesterday about his own brief. He focused on Europe and after reiterating the party’s promise to hold a referendum on the draft EU Treaty he also promised to amend the 1972 European Communities Act "so that if any future government agrees any treaty that transfers further competences from Britain to the EU a national referendum before it could be ratified would be required by law."
(4) The attendance at yesterday’s international development debate was poor but the quality of the debate was very high. Ben Rogers spoke movingly about Burma and confirmed his
reputation as the party’s leading authority on global human rights
issues. Zoya Phan from Burma brought the Conference to its feet (and has written for Platform10). Andrew Mitchell put forward some sensible and practical ideas in his speech. Iain Dale defended the Rwanda trip and described his visit as one of the most impactful of his life. President Kigame paid generous tribute to the party. It’s certainly true that Rwanda helped tens more Tory activists embrace international justice issues as core to their politics.
(5) I don’t have numbers but, anecdotally, more people appeared to have signed up to the Conservative Christian Fellowship’s petition on Zimbabwe than the official Conference petition on an EU Referendum.
(6) Yesterday was ex-leaders’ day. Not only did IDS inspire the Conference (a view shared by Quentin Letts in The Mail and by the Telegraph’s leader-writers) but John Major appeared on Radio Five to skewer Brown on his Iraq visit. Of Major’s intervention, Jonathan Freedland writes: "The swift and rare intervention of John Major underlined the gravity of Brown’s mistake. But it also suggested a Conservative party that was focused and well-organised, marshalling its resources effectively."
(7) Both The Times’ Sam Coates and BBC’s Nick Robinson have blogged
less this week because of infections they’ve picked up during the Party
Conference season. Fraser Nelson mentions one or two other downsides of the long Conference season over at The Spectator blog. I’ve long suspected that coming last in the Party Conference timetable is unhelpful. While it’s true that the Tories get the last word, it’s also true that journalists are fed up and other parties have had the opportunity to set the agenda.
(8) I enjoyed a delicious dinner in the Imperial Hotel last night with Owen Paterson and John Hayes. There were hardly any other diners. The Conference hall has often been empty. Cab drivers tell me that business has been slack. CCHQ say that pass applications were at a five year high but it doesn’t feel like that. I know of a number of candidates, including Louise Bagshawe and Mel Stride, who have stayed in their constituencies in anticipation of an early campaign. Perhaps many others have taken the same wise decision. After dinner btw I went to the Northern Ireland Conservatives reception, hosted by Owen. Owen’s predecessor David Lidington was presented with a beautiful Waterford crystal vase. David Lidington, one of my favourite people in politics, was hugely popular amongst NI Conservatives – embracing their long-held wish to be brought closer to the heart of the whole party. Owen has a tough act to follow.
(9) Theresa’s fashion sense and dance routine were featured prominently in yesterday’s London Evening Standard and there are lots more photographs of the Shadow Leader of the House in this morning’s newspapers. Some are more positive than The Sun which writes: "When it comes to fashion, she seems to have a habit of putting her foot in it." Tory Conference wouldn’t now be Tory Conference without a ‘Theresa May wears X’ story.
(10) The age difference in the ConservativeHome team is certainly beginning to tell. I’m in bed by midnight but Sam doesn’t return from the bars until at least 2am. He then goes for a run at 7am every morning along the beach. The one thing we share is a cooked breakfast at 9am. I recommend the Dukeries Hotel on Adelaide Road to anyone wanting a good value, friendly and clean Blackpool hotel.