Who's the Daddy? - A View From the Tory Party Conference With Nigel Farage

02/10/2013 13:48 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 23:58 GMT

This week, I went to Manchester to the Tory party conference. Not as a Tory this time, but a happy Ukipper.

First up is the Bruges Group meeting. At 1pm Farage strolls into the Town Hall, there is a media frenzy usually reserved for celebrities or Royalty. He is greeted by a rapturous applause and a standing ovation. He is calm and relaxed and genuinely liked by the audience.

A picture of Margaret Thatcher adorns the podium, gazing down at the assembled who, probably all to a man and woman, adored or at least admired her. Barry Legg, the chairman, is rightly angry with the Tories for refusing to publicise his event (Doesn't matter Barry, you got the biggest audience of any fringe meeting). John Redwood and co are a couple of doors along at the Selsdon Group meeting - a sort of anti-EU group.. Their room is empty.

Bill Cash is in the right corner (always, right, don't argue with me you nasty little peasants), Peter Oborne of the Daily Mail (I want to like you, I really do and I really respect Farage, but you're stealing Tory votes) sitting alongside him and Nigel Farage on the defence. It's a game of piggy in the middle at the first round of the Farage tour of the Tory party conference.

Bill Cash gives the first speech. He would like Ukip to stand down against Tory MPs to allow Dave to secure an overall majority otherwise our votes will stop him. He truly believes we are a one issue party and do not attract thirty per cent of our vote from other parties. He is conceited, arrogant, a born to rule Tory who sees Ukip as a fly in the ointment in his right to rule Government that he now finds he can't actually swat away. He is everything that is wrong about the Tory party and until they change people like him, they will decline even further.

And, do you know, he has never actually said he wants to leave the EU, he's more about carving an image for himself. I don't doubt that he is actually concerned about Eurocreep, after all he's the chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee - not much to do there then as 75-84% of our laws are enshrined into law before they hit his desk.

It got nasty, because Bill did.

Nigel reminds me of Lord Tebbitt, someone who always remained a gentelman, until he was rudely attacked. Nigel is the same.

Nigel pointed out to him that he voted against the Maastricht Treaty 47 times but when the final vote came, a vote of no confidence in John Major, he trooped through the lobby to vote with the government. He could have stopped Maastricht in its tracks but chose tribal loyalty over country. They could have eclipsed Ukip there and then.

Peter Oborne of the Daily Mail then appealed to us to stay a one issue party (there is a theme here) but when I asked a question from the floor, I pointed out to him that we have domestic politics because we stand candidates in local as well as Westminster elections. We are now the third party of politics and I urged all Tories in the room to vote for us, they seemed to agree. I asked him why he thought we shouldn't have domestic policies. It's to get a Conservative government he replied in a roundabout way and to get a referendum on Europe.

Next up is the Freedom Association's gig in the Freedom Zone. Again, the grassroots Tory party were queuing to get in, with more than 30 people left outside. HS2 was a big issue (at every meeting), along with Scotland's independence, gay marriage and the economy.

The excellent IEA event - a 'Fag and a Pint With Nigel Farage' was a chance to showcase the man, our policies, our philosophy and where we stand on many issues. Again, the room was a little cosy and Nigel was on good form.

The Tories were in denial that we were there.

The Bruges Group offered to pay for an advertisement in the official conference programme but it was refused. Erased by Dave, Farage isn't deterred. As usual, Tory high command just don't get it right. Today it is Ukip sitting alongside the Tories vying for coverage in the press.

When Ukip or Farage's name is mentioned to Cast Iron Dave he doesn't know how to react. Take Andrew Marr's Sunday morning programme, when asked about the Ukip threat, Dave squirms, does a half turn away and cannot utter our name or even acknowledge that that we have been mentioned. This is the stuff that fires Farage and makes the Tories look very silly indeed.

Yet, they allowed Alistair Campbell a pass. Tory chairman Grant Shapps personally intervened. I always thought that he was the arbiter of keeping the Tories at bay for thirteen years? Nigel and Alistair had a laugh about it.

It is my consistent sense that none of the political class at the top of the 'Old Parties' gets it for a moment. They have not yet grasped the fact that we attract voters from all corners of the electoral universe. Some who do get it are too horrified at the implications that they go into immediate denial. It is a truth whose implications are too awful for them to contemplate.

I joined Ukip because I see the party under Nigel's tutelage as the only truly radical players in the game, a party ready to discard any received wisdom if there is a better, common-sense way to do something. Let us get junking some of the Nostrums de no jours.

One Ukipper said to me, think of yourselves as moving rapidly down the Ho Chi Minh Trail of British politics: 'they' should only get it when the last helicopter lifts off Westminster.

I've never had such a good time at a Tory party conference.

Who's got the zeitgeist?