Tara Hamilton-Miller: Surreal scenes at Tory conference

Sshhh, tell no-one: we might win, but we can't say it. Day two and a bit in Manchester and the tension is unbearable. Some people are suppressing such levels of whoopee that they could do themselves a mischief.

Tara Hamilton-Miller

Conservative delegates give each other knowing looks; some look like they might pop. Two more days to go and I'm not convinced they can keep it together; by Wednesday night it might explode into Caligula. Manchester is a vibrant city and the people seem truly happy. What a change from London.

This level of Pollyanna happiness is evident everywhere. In The Midland - the conference hotel - the staff look staggered that the bar is rather busy. Most of the champagne drinkers are sipping G&Ts. A gigantic silver bucket sits on the bar with two large jeroboams of Pol Roger, just to tease the delegates. A few champagne parties are held discreetly in people's rooms.
The bedrooms have had that 2007 treatment - a bit baroque, with purple and gold and swirly wallpaper.Worth noting the little toiletries are suitably Cameroon. The hair conditioner is called ‘Happy' and the soap ‘Alive'.

The real test of how a political party is doing can be measured by the number and quality of the stands at conference. Six years ago the Tories were grateful for a dozen or so. This year, everyone is on board.

A tasteful Harvey Nichols bar opened on Monday in the conference centre. A few young Tories milled around as a sprightly barman announced ‘bar open'. The Tories looked at each other; they had just seen Boris and he was funny, witty and caustic. It felt brilliant and you wanted to high-five your mate. A few mavericks checked the time - 11.55am - just a swift one perhaps?

Practically orgasmic on Gin Rickys and conference fever, why not pop into the Harvey Nicks shop next door for a few essentials? Even the Asda looks like Fortnum & Mason.

It is surreal and odd, and it all looks so very nice.

At The Telegraph party, a parliamentary candidate brandishes a sequined Union Jack clutch bag, saying: ‘I wouldn't have been able to use this seven years ago; it would have been seen as terribly Tory.' The pretty MP-to-be and her handbag sum up this year's conference.

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