Thursday at the conference is not usually of great interest. The jaded, terminally hungover delegates are mostly subdued and many have left.
The only highlight is usually the leaders speech, but each year this seems to get a little more exaggerated. I remember Paddy Ashdown coming off stage after one of his "leader's speeches" which ended in fireworks, and balloons and the usual hullabaloo and muttering under his breath "stupid bloody circus" and I know what he means.
Nevertheless, "Ming-the Movie" which will proceed today's celebration of the final curtain on conference will at least let a few people know what an extraordinary man the Lib Dems have accidentally chosen as leader.
Although I disagree with Ming on many issues- I certainly do not regard myself as being on the "Centre left" for example, the fact is that his career has demonstrated a tenacity and an individual substance that is extremely impressive.
Ming is a self made man- an Olympic athlete, a highly successful QC, and a very determined politician. Like Ashdown (and indeed many of his own current front bench) Ming is a serial over-achiever. He does not owe his success to the vagaries of the public school system, to the traditional Scottish virtues of discipline and hard work. It is no accident that the Lib Dems political opponents make such personal attacks on him- they know that he is a solid and impressive man whose "gravitas" is not artificial.
Brighton has been a jolly conference, but also a deadly serious one. The opportunity to screw up was always there, but was strenuously avoided. Despite rather ill informed media comment about divisions, I think that the rigour of the economic liberals is helping the social liberals to define how their goals could be achieved.
So as the balloons fall and the applause continues for an unfeasibly long time I will smile and reflect: following a tough year the party is in decent shape after all. Policy arguments are moving to the Economic Liberal/Libertarian side of the debate, party organisation (with the exception of the English candidates office) is improving sharply. The door is not yet closed.
I always feel we miss out when we don't sing a national song to finish, so in the spirit of the age, I decided to get a cheaper, better, Polish, national song to finish (any errors of grammar are mine):
Jeszcze Partia nie zginęła,
Poku my żyjemy.
Co nam obca przemoc wzięła,
Marsz, marsz, Campbelli,
Z ziemi angliej do Skoci,
Za twoim przewodem
Złączym się z narodem.
Przejdziem Thamesę, przejdziem Forthę,
Dał nam przykład Gladstone,
Jak zwyciężać mamy.
Marsz, marsz, Campbelli...
Jak Ashdonwni do Yeovila
Po Torykim zaborze,
Dla ojczyzny ratowania
Wracał się przez morze.
Marsz, marsz, Campbelli...
And if you still insist on a translation:
At yet the Party is not lost,
while we are still alive,
What alien force has seized
we will recalim with the Focus.
March, March Campbell,
from the English Land to Scotland
we shall follow you
to reunite with our people.
We'll cross the Thames and cross the Forth
we shall be Liberals
Gladstone has shown us the way-
how to be victorious
As Ashdown to Yeovil
after the Tory invasion
to save the country
we will cross the sea.