on the day of last week's debate on Iraq, senior Tories and business supporters gathered at the Dorchester Hotel for the annual Carlton Club fund-raising dinner. The turnout was impressive, with well over 200 present and more than £100,000 raised for the party. The guests wore black tie, though shadow Cabinet members, conscious of the need to return to the Commons, wore lounge suits. Iain Duncan Smith's speech came at the start of the evening, so that he could make his early getaway.
If floating voters had to choose between the Conservative party and the Liberal Democratic party, a clear majority of them would choose the Lib Dems, according to a poll conducted for The Spectator. And almost half of them believe it likely that the Lib Dems will take over from the Tories within five years.
Floating voters make up as much as 30 per cent of the electorate, while core Tory voters make up about 25 per cent, core Labour 30 per cent, and core Lib Dems perhaps 15 per cent.
Osbert Sitwell tells a story in Left hand! Right hand! about visiting a country house and sitting on a hall chair which promptly collapses. 'Don't worry, Osbert,' his hostess tells him, 'it was a very old chair.' Indeed it was, as Sitwell later discovers: Egyptian and about 3,000 years old. Fortunately, more 'very old' objects have survived from ancient Egypt than from any comparable period, because the Egyptians set such store by filling the tombs of their pharaohs with chairs, sculpture, jewellery, wall paintings, gold, alabaster, model boats, board games - anything that might come in handy for the after-life in which they so firmly believed.
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