People often ask "how was conference" to which I reply, "what little I saw was fine". Like many seasoned conference-goer the events and set-piece speeches inside the hall are the justification for self-indulgence which goes out outside it. Yesterday was a case in point.
My day started with kippers (the gutless rather than the brainless variety) before forcing myself to miss the annual meeting of the National Convention (safe in the knowledge that Sally Roberts would tell me the highlights). I set-up base camp in Starbucks and watched the arrival of the great unwashed with their placards (I am referring to Unite not the membership). An early highlight was a chance encounter with Stuart Holmes. I went across the pat the dog, which appeared to have better judgement that its owner.
After a few informal meetings, mainly about West Kent, I ventured into the Midland Hotel for ConHome's fringe meeting with Lord Ashcroft. Towards the end I bumped into Peter Botting and I suggested a "quick drink". And from on it went downhill (which considering it was only 3pm, didn't bode well). We commandeered a table in the bar and foolishly deluded ourselves with two small gins with tonic. These immediately turned into two more gins without tonic as we decided it was impossible to taste a single gin, then two more and many more on top. The empty seat next to us was like a casting couch as various friends and colleagues turned up, shared a drink and left. Then suddenly the PPCs swooped (I suspect Botting had sent out a text to his clients "The T&M agent is here and is guard is lowered". They circled like vultures, trying to look nonchalant and totally disinterested, whilst waiting their turn. As soon as the seat became free they swooped; it was like a game of musical chairs to a backdrop of "Take a Chance of Me". Peter asked one passer-by "which seats are you applying for" to which he replied "Newark, Croydon and Tonbridge - though I suspect Tonbridge might have a few too many Country Cousins for me". "Hello", I said, "I'm the Country Cousins' Agent". The sound of frantic back peddling against the sight of blood draining from his face with a wonder to behold.
By 7pm we had been joined by friends from West Kent. At this point I realised I had been sitting there drinking large gins for over four hours. I needed the loo, but thought it was safer to remain seated. In my high-backed chair with arms I could come to no harm, and given I am able to speak fairly coherently even when drunk, I was safe. Walking to the loo might would almost certainly give the game away.
By 9pm it was decided we needed food (probably just as well as I had thus far survived on a kipper at 8am). I hauled myself to my feet and was pleased to discover my legs still worked, and we headed-off in search of pizza.
And that was my first day in Manchester. I will try to be a better Tory today.