Over the course of the day I'll be writing short pieces in this post analysing whether particular people or groups have had a good week or a bad week at the Conservative Conference. I'm sure you'll let me know if you disagree with my conclusions!
Even those who can't stand Cameron must surely admit that he has had an extremely good week. He's proved what I said in my Telegraph column a few weeks ago - that he's the political equivalent of that 1980s children's toy, the Weebil. Weebils wobble but they don't fall down. Cameron's resilience has been there for all to see. His speech yesterday should remarkable cojones. To speak for an hour without autocue or script was a feat in itself, and one which the media were highlighting at every opportunity and contrasting with Gordon Brown's more staccatto approach. The truth is, of course, that he did have some notes on a table, but he rarely referred to them, and if he did it was while the cameras were getting audience reaction shots during applause. He spoke from the heart, and although the speech was perhaps overlong, those who didn't know what he stood for at the beginning of it certainly did by its conclusion. I've been to twenty odd Conservative Conferences and I have grown slightly tired of the formulaic leader's speech. This was anything but formulaic. I have lost count of the number of Cameron-sceptics who I have spoken to in the last 16 hours who have said to me: "He's won me over." Now all he needs to do is keep up the momentum!
THE CONFERENCE ORGANISERS
There were still a few problems over passes but nothing like the chaos of last year. Within the Winter Gardens everything seemed to run fairly smoothly, except for the WiFi in the media centre, which caused the journalists not a little angst. The set and staging were the best for years. The raised seating worked well and gave the hall an intimacy which it had previously lacked.The giant video wall worked well, although some of the graphics were a little distracting during the speeches. Once the conference got over the shock of the sound system failing on the first morning it all ran very smoothly. Andy Coulson and Steve Hilton should get lots of plaudits for the operation of the event. It could so easily have been very different.
As usual, the fringe events provided great entertainment without distracting from the main conference. I'd be interested in people's highlights. Sometimes the fringe events can cause unfortunate headlines. That didn't happen this year, with everyone recognising the need for unity. I'm told George Osborne's interview with Andrew Rawnsley went very well and that Rawnsley failed to land a blow. I spoke at thee fringes, the sparkiest of which was undoubtedly the Hansard Society's event which called into question the future of political parties. It was a real old fashioned knock about event with the audience as aggressive as two of the speakers, Ed Vaizey and Peter Oborne who clearly have 'history'.
Coming later, policy, the media, Gordon Brown, the bloggers & the shadow cabinet.