David Davis in a corridor at the Conservative party conference. Photograph: Rupert Hartley/Rex/Shutterstock
The theme of the Tory party conference was “Brexit is going to be amazing”. Speaker after speaker got up to tell enthusiastic audiences they would be “wanting it, loving it and getting it”. Although the international development secretary, Liam Fox, has little to do for the next two and a half years until the exact details of Britain’s new relationship with the EU are finalised, his department has been wasting no time in drumming up business for Britain PLC. Over the course of the last week, its Twitter feed has been bigging up business opportunities. “A Norwegian importer & distributor is looking for British suppliers of organic crisps”; “in Spain, a well-established importer is looking for cool new giftware gadgets”; “from scampi to scallops – Spanish importer is looking for a variety of frozen seafood”; “a Japanese importer is looking for UK seaweed powder”; “France needs high-quality, innovative British jams & marmalades”. All with the hashtag #ExportingisGREAT. Who could doubt Britain’s future is in good hands?
One of the most sacrosanct areas of the Tory party conference is the Blue Room, a hermetically sealed safe space where donors can hand over large cheques to grovelling cabinet ministers away from prying eyes. The room is protected by G4S security guards to make sure the riff-raff are kept out. Well, not quite all. Just by chance I found myself standing near the door when a number of people were being ushered inside and I managed to slip in unnoticed. It’s hard to describe the disappointment. I was expecting lavish divans and a large array of corporate freebies. What I got was a narrow corridor adorned with a lot of advertising for Fujitsu, a mangy buffet offering bread and biscuits, and a long row of bored businessmen waiting to be blessed by personal appearances from Ruth Davidson, David Davis, Sajid Javid, Phillip Hammond and Damian Green. That’s the kind of company most people would pay money to avoid. After five minutes I was eventually rumbled and escorted off the premises. My main feeling was of relief.
Only a year ago, Eurosceptic politicians such as David Davis, Liam Fox, Bernard Jenkin and Peter Bone were regarded as the awkward squad and would only be found at the dingiest of fringe meetings at party conference. Now they have become the mainstream, acceptable face of Conservative politics, and it is the pro-EU MPs who have been consigned to the outer edges. The waters have now so completely closed over since the referendum in June that almost every MP who backed the remain argument – including Theresa May – has now managed to convince themselves they actually supported Vote Leave. Only two MPs, Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan, were prepared to stick their necks out and hold on to their core beliefs by challenging the government over its Brexit plans. At one fringe event, Morgan picked out two government whips who had been sent to keep an eye on her to make sure she didn’t stray too far off message. Dissent is not welcome in the new world order.
My favourite story of the week: scientists have discovered that cod may have their own regional dialects, which helps to explain why fish stocks are low. Either a female Cornish cod can’t understand the chat-up lines of a Liverpool cod, or she finds their accent unattractive. I’ve often wondered if the same applies to other animals. My dog was born in Essex – near Barking, as it happens – but moved to Streatham when he was about two months old. For the last five years, almost all of his social canine interactions have taken place round this area of London, so it would make perfect sense if he were to have a south London bark. And what assumptions do other dogs make about him because of his accent? A friend of mine, who talks perfect Radio 4 in English, taught himself to speak Spanish when he moved to the Sierra de Aracena. Whenever he goes to Madrid, the Spaniards treat him like an idiot because he talks like an Andalusian peasant.
Oh no he isn’t. Oh yes he is. Nigel Farage is back in charge of Ukip for at least the third, if not the fourth time, following the surprise resignation of Diane “I only signed the forms under duress” James after less than a month in charge. Nigel has insisted he will only be an interim leader, but he’s made similar noises before, and the other candidates seem to be falling over themselves to disqualify themselves before the next election campaign has even started. Steven Woolfe, the only candidate yet to nominate himself, ended up in hospital following a fight with fellow Ukip MEP, Mike Hookem, in the European parliament. Hookem was thought to have gone on the run following the incident but has since spoken to the BBC, claiming it was all just handbags at dawn and that he never laid a finger on him. Meanwhile a former Ukip and now Conservative MEP, David Campbell Bannerman, said Ukip had always been a maverick party with strong views, and some members were liable to get violent and aggressive. It takes a lot to make Nigel look like a statesman. But Ukip somehow manage it.
Digested week, digested: Brexit means breakfast.