Party conferences have different functions depending on where in the electoral cycle you are and what the wider political circumstances are. We are too far out from the General Election for major policy announcements so it’s worth asking what did we want out of the last few days in Birmingham.
My take is as follows.
For much of the last year David Cameron has had to deal with question marks being put over his leadership of both the party and the country. These have taken the form of general moaning and the specific suggestions that Boris should take his place.
Miliband gave a good performance in Manchester and added his voice to those from both without and within the Conservative party demanding an explanation as to what we are all about, what our philosophy is.
The party as a whole was suffering from the start of a crisis of confidence. The economy still not growing properly, unpopularity on the doorstep, almost constant negativity from the media.
So those were the challenges facing David Cameron and party leadership, end the speculation about his leadership, steady the nerves of the party and define why we do what we do and are what we are.
Over the last few days the party have achieved all of those things comfortably.
The Boris vs Dave narrative (which was always more real in the minds of the media than in the real world) turned into the Boris/Dave love-in. They both came out of this week better than when they went in with each playing to their respective strengths.
In ministerial speeches from the stage, at fringe meetings and even over drinks in the evenings the party discussed what we are doing and why and reaffirmed that despite the siren voices from outside we were doing the right things for the right reasons. The was distilled well when David Cameron defined the moral position underpinning our program at his final speech.
All these things gave the party the confidence boost that it needed. Not unrealistic cheer leading but a frank assessment of the challenges ahead and a reminder that not only can we deliver but we have to deliver for the country.
All in all it was a job well done.