I'm not at Conference; I've been at the Constitution Working Party meeting at City Hall. Not that I chose that over going to conference, of course, but being a teacher makes the whole needing-best-part-of-a-week-off thing very difficult. Perhaps if its somewhere convenient next year I could take the 3 days required but until then I find myself glued to BBC Parliament and the texts and calls from friends who are there.
Firstly a note to BBC Parliament: please cut out the delays between the speeches, principally because I cannot stand the upbeat pop music. It must be bad to suffer it in the Conference Hall but us TV viewers must be able to avoid it. However from what I hear Birmingham has been an excellent conference venue and both the exhibition and the fringe have been very exciting indeed.
Spot the difference between previous years - no "big beasts" hanging around ready to criticise. The party is very united and determined to show that we are a real alternative to Labour. We've been showing our priorities and putting some meat on the policy bones - more on those later.
A word about presentation. The conference set is excellent - much more exciting and fresher than either Labour's very traditional set and the rather dour and boring LibDem effort. The video presentations have been well produced and a lot of thought has gone into them. The decision to shift some debates to match the current problems was the right one. However if I make one small critique it would be this: I am disappointed that we haven't seen many chances for the members and activists to get involved. I am, however, quite impressed with the calibre of the PPCs that have spoken - clearly those of us who will be in the next Tory intake will be amongst good company.
A great start to the conference; very professional and a great window through which to see the next Conservative government.