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Tory Conference

'It's Fine, We Can Be Racist in the Toilets' – Overheard at Tory Conference

The best and worst stuff we heard this year.
Simon Childs
London, GB
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and other members of the cabinet listen to Prime Minister Theresa May deliver her keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference (Owen Humphreys/PA Wire/PA Images)

What do you overhear if you go to the Conservative Party conference? By day, at fringe events and speeches, the tepid applause and occasional yawns of a movement that's intellectually and physically exhausted. By night, a lot of braying as the Tory youth Activ8 themselves into hotel bars.

Being a bit more specific, here's the best and worst stuff I heard at the conference this year:

"Can I borrow a fag?"
"No! No you can't. I've already given you two."
"You've given me one."
"And you're not even grateful for that!"

The Toriest possible reaction to being asked for a fag… at a tobacco industry lobbying party.

"Our activists are 59, 60, 70. They do not fucking get it."

A switched-on Tory activist on the party's problem appealing to the youth.

"Vegan socialists the lot of you."
"It's fine we can be racist in the toilets."

Just some classic Tory conference toilet banter.

"We really are considering not doing it any more because they cost so much money. You're always trying to get MPs to speak and it's just exhausting. You don't make, really, any money from them because the time and energy is so extreme. So half of me would just like to do one party and leave it at that. But there are so many benefits that we'll probably keep doing it."

A think-tank staffer finds running skeezy corporate fringe debates a bit of a faff.

"I'm from Hertfordshire."
"I'm from Hertfordshire!"

A traditional Tory greeting ritual.


What Tories say when someone mentions that Britain has the fifth biggest economy in the world.

"If we seek to have a global Britain, if we really want to have a presence in the world, then we have to play to our strengths… our armed forces, our intelligence and security services… These are the things that people historically have admired us for."

Geoffrey Van Orden MEP has a rose tinted view of how people have perceived the British military throughout history, at a meeting of Veterans for Britain.

"…Long to reign over us / God Save the Queen."

A drunken, semi-ironic rendition by some young Tories, overwrought after an evening speech by Liam Fox, turns into the full-throated chorus of an entire room.

"I'd rather kill myself than be a Tory."

A pissed local wanders past the conference centre on his way to a big night out.

"It was literally agonising to sit through. I was just willing her to get to the end."

"Just horrendously painful to watch."
"I had to walk away from the TV."

"You can't really say that the coughing detracted from the speech because it wasn't a good speech."

Journalists react to Theresa May's speech.

We're an equal opportunities earwig, so here's what we overheard at Labour Conference.