Watching Nick Clegg's performance at yesterday's Lib Dem conference my mind began to wonder (surely I'm not alone in that regard). I started to think about what David Cameron should say when it's his turn to appear, victorious, before his party faithful in two weeks time.
Of course, much of what Clegg said could easily have been delivered by Cameron - with the notable exceptions of his rather hysterical rail against school selection and his pointed references to 'our friends in Europe'. The Labour bashing will go down better with true-blue Tories than it did with the Liberals, and the reality of our country's unsustainable debt became clear to us considerably sooner than it did to Cleggster, but the message was pretty much what we can also expect from the Prime Minister. Labour dug us all into a hole; the coalition is tasked with digging us out.
And there are a myriad of successes that Cameron can point to. From the abolition of the Audit Commission to the review of public sector pay, from welfare reform to the assault on NHS bureaucrats, the coalition has made astonishing progress in reshaping the British state to make it leaner and to remove its tentacles from aspects of day-to-day life where it has no proper place. Progressive Conservatives are thrilled to see pay tariffs in the public sector on the agenda and pleased that free schools will be delivered in conjunction with a pupil premium to aid social mobility. And Tories from all wings of our broad church should be thrilled to see the poorest workers lifted out of a pernicious tax system that has kept them in poverty and maintained an unnecessary dependency on Government generosity.
But, alongside listing the achievements of the Government, Cameron must acknowledge that this was not always the plan. Clegg - along with other leading Lib Dems - is prone to presenting the Government as a pragmatic response to reality rather than a meeting of minds. They accept, of course, that there are similarities but, as their collective response to Nick Boles' recent book demonstrates, they are more than keen to highlight the differences. Whatever the truth of Clegg's motives in joining the Government, Cameron should not let him get away with claiming that this was a brave decision only on his party's part. Team Tory could easily have avoided controversy and dilution of their policy agenda by going it alone as a minority administration. It would have been tough, they would have struggled to pass vital legislation to reform the state or the tough measures needed to prevent bankruptcy, but it would have been tactically and politically sensible. The other parties would have faced the choice of supporting a purist Conservative agenda or risk bringing the Government down, forcing another election and being punished at the polls. Cameron could have re-fought the election in a year's time, on the demand to be allowed to finish the job.
He chose not to do that. He chose to face a difficult decision in the interests of country rather than party and to take the tough steps that would give Britain the stability she so desperately craved. In doing so he demonstrated that the Conservative Party are patriots rather than partisans, that we would not gamble the future of Britain in pursuit of narrow political advantage.
That is the message I want to hear from Cameron in Birmingham. One that acknowledges that coalition is less than perfect but which reminds Conservatives to be proud that, when the moment came, our party took the high-road of national interest. It is also a message that the country at large will respond to favourably - the anti-political sentiment that pervades British life is curable only by politicians who are prepared to demonstrate that they put the needs of their constituents, their country, before their own. In making the brave choice to get into bed with the Lib Dems, Cameron has walked-the-walk in that respect; he has shown that the Conservative Party's interests will always come a poor second to those of the nation as a whole. We should all be able to stand and applaud that in a fortnight's time!