Love, actually, was missing during the battle of the premiers in Birmingham. Downing Street was cock-a-hoop, boasting that David Cameron had outsmarted the pretend prime minister, Hugh Grant, moments before the pair appeared on Andrew Marr’s Sunday sofa show on BBC1. Cam, incandescent after the actor launched a pre-emptive strike in the Observer by demanding that No 10 back statutory control of newspapers, deployed his trademark menace laced with charm to ensure that Grant behaved on live telly.
The Hacked Off privacy campaigner was sought out by the hacked-off politician just before he went on air. “Good luck,” said Cameron. “I hear you’re having a go at me already.” Aides to Dodgy Dave said that his intervention changed the script. Grant was a pussycat on the box, purring instead of sticking his claws into the Prime Minister. The People’s Toff calls it “squaring” people, a term with creepy masonic undertones.
To Birmingham, where the loadsamoney web marketer Michael Green, whose alter ego uses the Tory moniker Grant Shapps, relied on what must be the world’s largest autocue on the conference stage. Visible to sniggering hacks, the text used capital letters to EMPHASISE points and gave instructions to pause for applause. All that was missing was a dot bouncing across the top of the words or it would’ve been bad karaoke.
In Brum in abusive spirit if not in body was Andrew “Fucking Plebs” Mitchell. The two wheeled yob has become a figure of fun, tricky for a chief whip required to impose discipline on rebellious backbenchers.
That the city’s only Tory MP stayed away from the jamboree encouraged stories about his weirdness. I was told that before the 2005 election, the Sutton Coldfield Observer asked its local parliamentarian for his favourite album. Cameron liked Keane, whose singer, Tom, resembles Dave. Mitchell told the local rag that he liked anything by Keane, an uncool reply, as the band had only one album out at the time.
As reported, the high Tory Charles Moore fears his favourite suit is destined for rags after Ed Miliband splattered an insect on the shoulder. The stain is indelible, he told me: Mili’s hanky action rubbed in as well as spread it. “The blood is human,” Moore added. “The insect was a large parasite. Very unpleasant.” So that’s first blood to Red Ed in the one-nation war.
Uniformed squaddies are to be awarded VIP access to the Houses of Parliament, picked out of queues and fast-tracked through security. I’m sure that most would prefer a salary increase or to avoid a pension cut but it should make it easier for them to lobby MPs who laud the military, then shrink from paying the forces properly.
Word reaches us of a male Tory, an MP with lofty ambitions, who uttered the crude “I would like to fuck you” to a chap visiting parliament. The MP isn’t publicly gay and I have no intention of outing him – but I’d advise the true blue to check next time that the target of his brusqueness isn’t a Labour councilor.
Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror.