Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Dilettante at Conference: Day 2

Note: I left the various cards and notes I took today in my jacket. This post will be edited to credit those people whose names elude me at this late hour.

Despite a poor start, today has been a really enjoyable day at conference. I met quite a few people and got quotations etc., so I'll provide at outline of my day first and then a list of interesting quotations and views from people I met at the bottom.

The poor start? I got up at 6.30 am so I could attend Breakthrough Northern Ireland for O'Neill over at Unionist Lite, only to get lost and miss it. So I didn't get to report back on it or a lie in - rubbish. But from this disheartening start the day picked up. After a free lunch courtesy of The Times at their event and a while spent at the Freedom Zone, business proper started with the Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party reception.

Much to my delight, the event was packed. After chatting with Alistair Campbell (!), our candidate in Paisley and Renfrewshire North, it was time to step aside as David Cameron came in and said his piece.I got to ask Annabel Goldie about the future of the Scottish Conservatives and talk to Lord Sanderson of Bowden, who is leading the review of the Scottish Conservatives.

I wound up in the middle of the Northern Irish Conservatives (who I had despaired of meeting) and Irwin Armstrong was kind enough to give me an invitation to the invite-only, super-secret Northern Irish Conservative reception (it wasn't in any of the fringe guides, which will need to change if the NI Conservatives are to raise their profile). It was also a pleasure to met Ian Parsley in person.

I was also roped into providing a few minutes of thoughts on Osbourne's child benefit cuts for radio 5 live - they only used one soundbite each from me and my opponent but if you really fancy hearing my voice check iPlayer for Radio 5 'Up All Night', 05/10/10, about an hour in.

At the NI Conservative event, I again got to mingle, chatting at length with [name and details coming] about the history of Irish unionism, before again it was time for the bigwigs to speak - Irwin introduced Owen Paterson. After he had finished I got to ask a few questions of Sir Reg Empey. After this, I spent a few hours propping up the bar with some other Manchester Conservatives and returned to my hotel, where I found that Conference security had wiped my room card.

Quotations etc - these may not be verbatim but are as accurate as I can recall and capture the content and spirit of what was said - hedges included.

"I personally am against the splitting of the Scottish Conservative Party from that of the United Kingdom". - Annabel Goldie

"I believe that the Conservatives will be allowed to run in Northern Ireland - we're having a meeting about it tomorrow." - Irwin Armstrong

"I would not run as an independent, no." - Ian Parsley

"UCUNF was too complicated, and there are those out there who were naïve about what was achievable. I stuck my neck out to make the link up with the Conservatives happen. I believe in the UUP and the Conservatives working together - and so does the new leadership". - Sir Reg Empey (the emphasis was his).

"You see that logo? And you know how UCUNF didn't have a logo? We sent the Tories that - apparently it was too sectarian." - [UUP Councillor - Details Coming]

"Dilettante, you say? I'll have to check that out". - Danny Finkelstein, of The Times


  1. Irwin's been saying that for a while. We'll have to see whether central office play ball I guess. Quite envious of your adventures in Birmingham Dil, Have a good one.

  2. Well, the best way to assuage that envy is to join up and come to the next one. ;)