Conference Diary: Danny and Oli

The spiritual conflagration raging between Dave and Nick has been well-documented. Less so the concord between two of their key sidekicks who were pivotal in the coalition talks – Oliver Letwin and Danny Alexander.

Five years ago, Alexander's responsibilities amounted to carrying a balloon on a stick and resembling the Muppets character Beaker, but the 38-year-old experienced a rather startling ascent this summer, becoming the nation's foremost axe-wielder (Chief Secretary to the Treasury) after David Laws was torn from his closet and subsequently walked off into the waves.

Danny and Oli spend hours each week on the phone to one another. Every Sunday, Danny calls the older man for a long chat. Presumably it's preferable to watching the Antiques Roadshow. They discuss the diary for the week ahead and try to troubleshoot potential problems for the coalition. Their rapport has not yet extended to that Westminster cliché of playing tennis against one another, which is a shame, since Letwin has a court, and claimed parliamentary expenses for repairs to a pipe beneath it.

Stormy weather warning

Despite the pelting rain on the final day of conference, Lib Dem leaders and delegates left Liverpool in a cautiously upbeat frame of mind. It is certain to be very different when they gather in 12 months. A Lib Dem minister predicts that by then they could have been "annihilated" in the local government elections and have lost the referendum on introducing the alternative vote for Westminster elections. The public will also have felt the edge of the coalition's blade by then. Expect gloom, introspection and recrimination next year in Birmingham.

Huhne's pannier test

Chris Huhne told delegates that the biggest surprise of being in government was the amount of work it entailed. "I prioritise what I take home by what I can get into my bike pannier," he explained. Asked what his greatest surprise was, Danny Alexander replied: "Eric Pickles."

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