To Toryland and a beauty parade starring a pot belly, a broken nose, a quiff, a smirk and a chap who looks as if he has a walnut for a head. Sharp-suited Tory Boys are making a comeback: fresh-faced, earnest young men jostle the blue-rinse brigade at the bar. Michael "Hezza" Heseltine's silver mane is slicked back into what looks suspiciously like a ponytail, but the days are numbered for that Dulux dog, Boris Johnson. A bald patch is visible on the crown of his white mop; the jester-in-chief won't sound quite so funny if he looks like Iain Duncan Smith. Tim Yeo
takes some stick for blasting a near-comatose
front-runner David Davis (broken nose) as idle, then packing his golf clubs for a few days swinging in Northern Ireland.
Representatives are banned from taking balloons into the Winter Gardens, which strikes me as a bureaucratic way of keeping Nicholas "Fatty" Soames off the conference floor. As leadership runt, Sir Malcolm Rifkind (walnut head) wanders about seeking flesh to press, eyes dropping to shoes as the weakest link passes by. At one point he seemingly points to an imaginary friend before marching across the foyer to converse with himself, then repeats the exercise twice more. Finally, an elderly matron takes pity on him and stops Malcolm in the middle. Two minutes and she's off, discovering a sudden interest in road transport links and seaports.
To the Tory treasurer Jonathan Marland's champagne drinkathon outside the lifts on the Imperial Hotel's fourth floor. Manoeuvring past a bouncer with a clipboard, I bump into a sweaty Ken Clarke (pot belly). Overheard is David "call me Dave" Cameron (quiff), boasting how that comely new girl Theresa Villiers was won over by his peroration. Quite so, Dave. That'll be the same Chipping Barnet MP who 24 hours earlier told me she'd already come out for you and had taken part in your photocall. The smart money in the Westminster lobby is on Liam Fox (smirk), with a number of scribblers slapping several thousands of pounds on the neo-con at 16-1. Talk of insider betting on the inside pages is met with scowls.
Heavily tipped to be the next Labour general secretary is the T&G union apparatchik Ray Collins, who'll have his work cut out following the Walter Wolfgang affair. Prezza is demanding an inquiry into the Brighton fiasco, blaming Downing Street meddling. WW, meanwhile, is demanding to be interviewed by newspapers. Old comrades note he has a habit of droning on, and that groans go up when he gets to his feet at meetings. That cry of "nonsense" probably signalled a 20-minute monologue.
Remember you read it here first: the soon-to-retire Sun political editor, Trevor Kavanagh, has kept a diary of 15 years of phone calls and words in his ear. He's prepared to listen to offers. Eat your heart out, Alastair Campbell.
Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror