Murmur on the dance floor

How not to upset the Toryfather

Ashcroft's brash bash

My snout at an extravaganza hosted by Lord Ashcroft has finally sobered up. The Veuve Clicquot flowed freely at Grosvenor House in London, turned for the night into a replica of the Elizabethan-era Rose Theatre. The owner of the Conservative Party threw the brash bash to celebrate the 60th birthday of his wife, Susi. The 700 guests included David Cameron and a shadow cabinet on a three-line whip to avoid rankling the Toryfather.

Penguins on parade

Druggie Dave goes to great lengths to dress casually in public, aware that voters bridle when reminded the Cons are led by a Bullingdon boy. He attends the party's summer balls sans bow tie, posing open-necked for the cameras. But the Toryfather stipulated black tie at his party. So Cameron and his lieutenants resembled a colony of penguins, a dinner-jacketed blast from the Tory past. Annoyingly, my informant failed to capture the priceless moment on film.

Mandy goes mild

To the Labour gloom-fest in Brighton, where Peter Mandelson the pantomime villain was the star of the show. With a tear in his eye and an audible tremble in his voice, Baron Mandy was overheard by an eavesdropper purring how wonderful it is to be loved, after giving what was more a performance than a speech. The Talibrown's hardliners remain suspicious and mutter he'll plunge the knife into the Prime Minister at his own convenience. But Mandy appears more George Clooney than Christopher Price these days, the Dr Doug Ross of Labour, a spin doctor working furiously to resuscitate Gordon Brown. Milord was spied at a chippy on the seafront, buying a couple of bags for his staff. He didn't order mushy peas or guacamole. Perhaps some personal episodes are off-limits, even with New Mandy.

Ripping up the rags

The White House spinner Robert Gibbs denounced "London's tabloid press" for lurid tales of a Brown-Obama rift during the PM's trip to the US. Quite right, too. Except the rags which splashed on the snub story were the Guardian and Daily Telegraph, the only two public prints (save for the small-circulation FT) that aren't tabloids. The so-called diplomatic source in­advertently blurted out in drink, I gather, that No 10 begged five times for a meeting. It was a footnote in history as cock-up not conspiracy.

Druggie Dave comes dancing

Ashcroft the Toryfather hired the one-time rugger bugger Austin Healey to entertain Cameron & Co with a Strictly Come Dancing routine.
My snout noticed Druggie Dave disappear in the middle of the evening, then return to show real leadership. The Buller Boy was one of the first on the dance floor and Yummy Mummy Sammy followed a few songs later. The snout recalled she moved gracefully. The review of her hubby was less favourable. The mole sipping Ashcroft's champagne observed Druggie Dave jerking uncomfortably, more Swine Flu Jive than Saturday Night Fever.

One for the ladies

Old thumper John Prescott's sneering at his successor, Hattie Harperson, for championing the sisters went down badly with the lads as well as the lasses. Dinner lady Mary Turner earned a round of applause on Labour's NEC when she criticised Prezza's sniping.

Tit for tat

Polly Toynbee, grande dame of the Guardian and founder member of the SDP, is very cross with the Talibrown bruiser "Tommy-Gun" Watson for saying that she was threatening to destroy his party a second time by repeatedly demanding Gordon Must Go Now. "That was trivial and tribal," she complained off-air. "How could we pick a new leader now?" he shot back. "Just draw the name from a hat," spat Pollyanna. Isn't that, er, trivial?

Under the gaydar

The ultra-ambitious Foreign Office minister Chris Bryant realised he must raise his profile after speaking at a gay rights fringe event in Brighton. He was introduced as Chris Smith, deputy leader of the Commons.

Barefaced cheek

I hear that the Treasury number-cruncher Liam Byrne grew a beard over summer but shaved it off before returning to Westminster. The balding Byrne feared his head looked upside down.

Star turns for the Toryfather

Pop princess Kylie Minogue topped the bill at the Toryfather's soirée. Lesley Garrett, the people's diva, was the support act (she performed free at the Labour conference gala dinner, perhaps to salve her conscience). Members of the cast of the West End musical Jersey Boys warbled a few popular tunes. And Royal Ballet dancers did a tiptoed routine. The tax status of the deputy chair and bankroller of the Cons remains unclear; the Toryfather has yet to declare if he's still a non-dom. After enjoying his lavish hospitality, the snout reckons Ashcroft's taxes will fund a lot of equipment for troops out in Afghanistan.

Keep it in the family

The "Vote for change" by-election slogan of Pam Sambridge, a successful Tory candidate for Tendring Council, raised a few eyebrows in Essex. The vacancy was created by the death of her husband.

Marred by mystery

Labour attack dogs shouted that Andrew Marr had much to fear from internet rumours after the BBC presenter asked Big Gordie if he popped pills. What could they mean?

Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 05 October 2009 issue of the New Statesman, The tories/the people