Conference blog: Partying in Birmingham with the Tories

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Conservative party conference has a different feel than its Labour and Lib Dem counterparts.

It is more like a big pep rally than a place were policy is formulated.

But despite appearances, there have been some fierce fringe events alongside the socialising.

Last night Shadow Minister for Women Theresa May appeared at a meeting organised by Channel 4 and The Hansard Society asking if Parliament is representative of Britain.

Ms May, whose shoes have made headlines at previous conferences, bemoaned the way that the media obsesses over what female politicians wear.

A good point well made, but the bright orange raincoat Ms May wore to the fringe is worthy of a mention, And the silver suit she is wearing today is stunning.

More on male Tory fashion later, but the signature word is tailoring,


Tiggerish Shadow Jusctice Secretary Nick Herbert hung round after yesterday’s Stonewall fringe to chat to gay and lesbian activists – mostly gay as only a handful of women attended.

He was pleased as Punch that he had not only met Olympics hero Dame Kelly Holmes but had procured an autograph for his partner Jason, who is by all accounts a massive athletics fan.


A spirited demo by the Unite union outside the Birmingham International Conference Centre this morning raised some smiles.

Around 20 protesters chanted, cheered and shouted ‘loads-a-money!’ at delegates as they arrived for the last day of conference.

Several wore T-shirts claiming: ‘Cameron’s cronies caused credit crunch.’ One was even wearing a pig mask. Ouch. And they say class warfare is dead.


One thing the Tories excel at is partying, and the bar at the main conference hotel was still packed at four this morning.

Just like last week’s Labour conference, a rumour was running round the room like wildfire. Nothing as exciting as a resignation, unfortunately.

Just the frankly bonkers idea that Jeremy Clarkson, the Top Gear presenter who is some sort of god to middle aged heterosexual men, will be standing as a candidate for the Tories. Against Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg.

Wiser heads pointed out that Mr Clarkson’s stance on the environment is unlikely to endear him to the Tory leader.


It has been said of Tory conference that the delegates are either under 25 or over 70.

Like many cliches it contains some truth, and there are plenty of both on show. But the party has attracted a large contingent of 26 to 69 year olds of late.

Some of the old school were on show last night at an event with Trevor Phillips, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Mr Phillips was on grand form, dealing with questions about the Black Police Association and other incendiary topics with aplomb.

He also urged the Tories to “open its doors to a wider range of people.”

An interesting statistic arose in the course of the discussion.

There are 7,500 faith schools in England and Wales but “fewer than five or six” are Muslim schools receiving state funds.

State schools, not faith schools, are where real problems of segregation lie, Mr Phillips claimed.


The tension and excitement inside the convention centre is rising ahead of the Leader’s speech this afternoon.

The talk of the bars and cafes is whether David Cameron will go “lectern free” as he did last year, or if the serious economic crisis that has overshadowed the conference requires a more statesmanlike image.

Gordon Brown opted for a lectern last week at his conference – will DC follow suit?

We will find out at 14:30.