Posted by: Closed Circuit15/10/2010
Nobody could accuse Grant Shapps of having a relaxed party conference last week.
The housing minister was frequently seen scuttling to and from the various fringe events in and around Birmingham’s International Convention Centre.
At one event, several dozen delegates waited for Mr Shapps’ appearance at a debate about the ‘big society’ and the future of housing delivery. Arriving an hour and a quarter late, the MP spoke for a few minutes, only to be drowned out by the sound of a helicopter overhead. A symbol that the Tories are struggling to get themselves heard on the big society perhaps?
David Cameron’s ‘big tent’ approach to working with other parties has certainly drawn a few plaudits, but one delegate at last week’s Conservative Party conference was concerned the cross-party working had gone too far.
‘Isn’t that the chap from the BNP?’ said one confused (and possibly slightly drunk) delegate as Stephen Greenhalgh, leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council, took his seat as a speaker at a fringe event. Closed Circuit would like to point out it does not see any resemblance whatsoever between Mr Greenhalgh and Nick Griffin - though it has never seen them in the same place at once.
Elsewhere at a Places for People fringe meeting, Conservative backbencher Iain Stewart highlighted the delicate nature of the debate on security of tenure.
‘I think Sir Humphrey would say those ideas are very courageous,’ quipped the MP for Milton Keynes South, making reference to sitcom Yes Minister in response to the suggestion that high earners be booted out of social homes.
Meanwhile, Mr Stewart’s parliamentary colleague Jake Berry MP made a comment which almost certainly would have raised the eyebrows of Whitehall’s finest. ‘I think we’d all be in favour of beating the bankers with a big stick,’ he said jovially.
If only Sir Humphrey had been there to warn him. No sooner had the utterance been made than fellow panellist and Westminster councillor Philippa Roe politely informed him, ‘I am a former director of Citigroup’.
When Labour’s Karen Buck beat back Tory contender Joanne Cash to the Westminster North seat in May, she didn’t expect her victory to have such a resounding effect.
At last month’s party conference, Ms Buck was besieged by excited young activists begging her to autograph their conference programmes as a memento of her successful general election campaign.
Ms Buck admitted to Closed Circuit that she isn’t really used to being such a political celebrity. But the starstruck young members who appeared, pen-in-hand, to congratulate her said they were thrilled that she had put rising star Ms Cash ‘back in her place’. And Ms Buck herself later admitted: ‘The best bit about 6 May was the satisfaction of beating that awful woman.’
From Closed circuit
Gossip, rumour, and stuff that amused us.