I have just watched David Davis give his conference speech. I didn't go into the hall as I wanted to watch it on the big screen and in the same way as others outside would see it.
For those who don't know, I was David's chief of staff during the leadership contest and therefore experienced the shock and awe attack on David after his conference speech last year by the media. As you can imagine, it was a tough time for everyone involved.
My advice to David this year was to walk onto the stage with a written text of his speech, get to the podium and then throw the papers up in the air like confetti and say: "Well it didn't work last year, did it?". In the event he didn't quite go that far, but did start his speech with these words: "Ah, the party conference speech, my favourite time of the year".
The speech itself was well delivered and at times inspirational. He took an historical look at how the Conservative Party has had to change in the past and how it can learn the lessons today.
The Conservative Party is the oldest and most successful political party in the history of democracy. We should all recognise that every single significant Conservative Prime Minister was remarkable because they changed the party and transformed the country. For me the first great Conservative was Pitt the Younger.
The label certainly fitted - he was even younger than the leader we've got now. Pitt took the tired old Tory Party, the party of the shires, of privilege, of turning back the clock, and he made it into a party which was popular, modern, and successful.
So how did he do it? Well he certainly didn't do it by throwing the old Tory Party away and starting all over again. Pitt was a conservative. He took the essential principle of the Party - loyalty to the Crown and to the nation - and he made it serve the age. Pitt was a great patriot and a great war leader. He saved the nation from Napoleon. He was a brilliant administrator. He cut taxes and opened Britain to free trade. And above all, he was compassionate. He and his friend William Wilberforce brought about the end of slavery in Britain. Pitt exemplified the principle that to be Conservative is to be modern, freedom-loving, and decent.
Other great Conservatives followed. I can only do justice to three this afternoon. It's fair to say that Disraeli shook the Tory Party up a bit. Disraeli's genius was that he saw what democracy could do for the Conservatives. And, he saw how the Conservatives could use democracy to transform our country for the better. He gave the vote to working men in the urban areas, and passed the largest body of social legislation in the entire Victorian period. So Disraeli took the Conservative party from the country to the cities. He made 'One Nation' the slogan of our party - the idea that we govern not for any class, or any interest, but for the whole country.
And what about that towering Conservative, Winston Churchill? After six years of World War Two, the voters chose a Labour government to look after the peace. So Churchill took a hard look at his own party and realised it had to change. We had been so busy winning the war that the party organisation was still stuck in the 1930s. And, people wanted better living conditions than they'd put up with in the 1930s. Churchill understood that. And, he changed the party. He launched the Industrial Charter - that great document which made peace between the Conservative Party and the welfare state. After six years of Labour, the Conservatives were back in power for 13 years.
In those years, earnings rose twice as fast as prices. Home ownership nearly doubled. Savings multiplied by ten. What was that dangerous phrase coined by Harold MacMillan? 'We'd never had it so good'. Of course, it didn't last. Labour got back in.
Devaluation. Inflation. Stagflation. Strikes. Bankruptcies. Rubbish lining the streets. All the horrors of government by trade union. But then came - that's right - Margaret Thatcher. Let us never forget what we owe to that lady! We owe her our freedom from the threat of the Soviet Union. We owe her our freedom from socialism at home. We owe her our prosperity, and our pride in our country.
She made Britain great again, and the whole nation knows it. But as a party we also owe her this: Margaret Thatcher gave us the perfect example of how a Conservative leader should lead. She didn't have an easy time of it at first.A lot of you will remember: She had to fight against the old guard that wanted her to stick with ideas from the past.
But she persevered and she took the government of Britain and made it work for the British people. Like Disraeli, Margaret Thatcher made a whole generation of hard-pressed men and women into Conservative voters.
So what do all these leaders have in common? It's simple. They were visionaries. Radicals, if you like. They took the party they loved, and turned it in a new direction: to face the challenges of the day. Pitt, Disraeli, Churchill and Thatcher were all agents of change, who transformed our Party, and more importantly transformed our country. During the dark days over the last nine years, I've never doubted for one minute that the Conservative Party would have the resilience and resourcefulness to recover. And, that is why we are the oldest and greatest party in the world.
Because, with every generation we have been able to renew ourselves. To find in our philosophy the ideas that address the challenges of our time. And, that is what we are doing again today.
You wouldn't have thought me human if I hadn't allowed thoughts like "if only he had given this speech last year" to float through my mind. However, I don't actually believe THAT speech was the real reason why David lost the leadership contest. Some things are just meant to be, and as I have said elsewhere, David Cameron just caught the mood of the Party. He was the right man, in the right place at the right time.
David Davis's speech concluded with these words...
This time last year we engaged in an honest, open and democratic debate about the future direction and leadership of this Party. I hope you agree that we set an example the other parties would have done well to follow. It was a privilege to be part of that debate. Some of you will remember that I said at the time that the process was designed to ensure that the next PM elected by the British people was called David. And you can be quite sure I wasn't thinking of David Milliband.
To that end, the time for debate is over. Now is the time for action; action to deliver a Conservative government. Ten months ago you elected the next Conservative Prime Minister. It is my job, and the job of all my colleagues, to get David into Downing Street. And it is your job too. Because the Conservative Party does not exist for itself. It certainly doesn't exist for us, the politicians. It doesn't even exist for you, the members - though it certainly wouldn't exist without you. It exists for the British people. We are gathered here this week to re-dedicate ourselves to the job we have to do. Let us go out from here renewed... ...restored in confidence... ...committed to the fight... ...determined to take our message into every home in Britain. So that once again we can see: A Conservative majority in Parliament... A Conservative government in Whitehall.... ...and a Conservative Prime Minister in Downing Street."
Amen to that!