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back to the 19th century

With Ed Miliband scoring such a success in evoking the spirit of Disraeli, Conservative Party researchers must be frantically researching the world of Gladstone for David Cameron's big speech on Wednesday.

After all, the only way is backwards now. Suddenly the 19th century is cool. Of course, Mr Cameron will want to go one better than smarmy Ed, which is why, in a specially converted suite in his Birmingham hotel room, teams of make-up artists are at work experimenting with great white sideburns (each of which will bear the Tory party logo), costume specialists are preparing strange band collar shirts ("Splendid! We wore these at Bullingdon!"), and there are regular deliveries of waistcoats and gold fob watches. All the while Mr Cameron is striding up and down intoning: "Even, gentlemen, when you do a good thing, you may do it in so bad a way that you may entirely spoil the beneficial effect; and if we were to make ourselves the apostles of peace in the sense of conveying to the minds of other nations that we thought ourselves more entitled to an opinion on - um, something something, oh blast, forgotten it again."

Nineteenth-century historians among you will recognise these words as coming from Gladstone's third Midlothian speech given at West Calder in 1879. If you want to enjoy it in full, it's on the album Now That's What I Call Billy Ewart Gladstone!

Mr Cameron hopes to quote all of it because it lasts five hours and will knock Mr Miliband's measly one hour into a cocked (Gladstone) hat. Gas lanterns to further the 19th century atmosphere will light the hall, and in one corner the BBC will be filming the latest adaptation of David Copperfield. It will all go swimmingly until, with only an hour to go and before he gets to the "my mission is to pacify the Eurosceptics" part, there is a disturbance in the audience. A line of bedraggled street women is approaching the stage.

"'Though you never took no pleasures from us like what we offered you, you said you would always be there for us and that you would bring us to the balm of heaven," shouts a striking redhead. "Yet now we hears you cutting our benefits and making our lives worse than they was before."

Mr Cameron momentarily panics. "Can someone get these pleb-", then recovers. "Can someone find these pretty girls a seat, please?"

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