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banner Friday, 6 October, 2000, 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
Widdecombe's Widdeo

By BBC News Online political correspondent Nick Assinder

Who were the first two people I bumped in to arriving at the Conservative Party conference in Bournemouth? None other than former Labour sports spokesman Tom Pendry and the chancellor's ex-spin doctor Charlie Whelan.

Mr Pendry was there in his role as chairman of the Football Foundation, which had a stand in the exhibitions area. "I've got to go and have my picture taken with Peter Ainsworth (the Tory sports spokesman)" he grimaced.

Mr Whelan was there as a columnist for a daily newspaper and enjoying every second of it.

The two met a couple of hours later in the nearest pub where Mr Pendry was bemoaning the fact that he had been turned away at the door of the conference and had nearly missed his appointment with Mr Ainsworth.

He was so distracted by it all that, when he ordered his drink he found he had forgotten to go to the bank and could not afford to pay for it.

Mr Whelan had to put his hand in his pocket and cough up the cash.

Unfortunately there were no photographers around to capture the event - you'll just have to take my word for it.


MPs are finally catching up with the internet revolution and dozens of them now have their own web sites.

The most recent to join the club is shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe.

And her latest toy is a computer with a video camera attached so she can talk directly to anyone visiting her site.

She is going around saying she has invented a new medium - the Widdeo.


Collecting accreditation for the conference was, as usual, a pain and involved a 25-minute wait.

But it's amazing what you over hear whiling away your life like that.

One would-be Tory candidate who had unsuccessfully attended a number of selection meetings was over heard offering helpful advice to another hopeful candidate.

"Probably the best thing you can do is swot up on all the local issues and, when you are being interviewed, pretend you really care about them," she said with no hint of irony.

But it got better.

With breathtaking arrogance she continued: "They all know you will only be staying with them for a short time until something better comes along!"


Comic Jim Davidson was the celebrity star of the conference and did a very funny turn at the end of the show.

In amongst all the jokes about his ex-wives was an impassioned plea to be given Britain back.

It was all very patriotic and flag-waving and went down extremely well with the representatives.

However, he was spotted earlier in the Smugglers' Bar in the conference centre signing autographs. One was even scribbled onto a five pound note - isn't that defacing coin of the realm?


There were lots of other patriotic speeches made from the bizarre conference platform - which appeared to be made out of the same materials used for cheap conservatories or double glazing.

Some of the most emotional were, inevitably, during debates about Europe and the need to preserve all things British.

So it came as a bit of a surprise to find a piece of the wrapping from the set which clearly showed it had been made in Germany.


Tory representatives always do the right thing by their party leaders and shadow spokesmen by dutifully filling up the hall whenever anybody is speaking.

It presented a very different spectacle from the Labour conference in Brighton where the hall was regularly half empty.

One uncharitable observer, however, believed he had spotted a trick here.

He claimed the hall was always full because the organisers had taken out dozens of seats.


British Nuclear Fuels always have a stand at the party conferences where they do their "nuke is good" propaganda.

They also hand out little packets of delicious mints which have become a firm favourite amongst conference attenders.

One check of the wrapping showed these little delicacies were only good up to July 2001.

As one representative commented: "Is that their shelf life or their half life."


Anyone who visited the gents in the pub next to the conference centre was taken aback by a new machine next to the usual one dispensing condoms.

For the highly-reasonable price of five pounds, it would give you a "racing snake vibrator" - whatever that might be.

It puzzled all who saw it and one customer was particularly fascinated by it - Countdown host Richard Whiteley who is an ardent politics watcher.

As far as is known, no one shelled out five quid to satisfy their curiosity.

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