Conference Diary: The day when even Nick Clegg was outshone

There has not been a surfeit of excitement at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton this week but there was a brief moment yesterday when to have been in the wrong place would have been to risk being trampled by excited photographers. It was when Nick Clegg descended the main staircase on his way to deliver his final speech.

The photographers were not there to capture images of Clegg, but of the woman alongside him, his wife, Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, looking striking in a white dress by Henrietta Ludgate, set off by red high-heeled shoes. The cheapest dress on offer on the designer's website is £397. At the top of the range you're looking at £1,600.

Come back Lembit, the party needs you

What the conference has missed is Lembit Opik, the ex-MP. Every Shakespeare tragedy has a comic turn, and the Sorry Party conference should really have featured a speech from Lembit on how to fail, and fail, and keep on bouncing back with a happy smile. He has been visible on the edges of the event, and just before the leader's big speech, he helpfully remarked: "If Nick Clegg was a tin of fish we would all be looking at the 'best before' date."

Charles who? How soon a leader is forgotten

Charles Kennedy was also absent from Brighton. Paddy Ashdown, the founding leader of the Liberal Democrats, who stood down in 1999, was very prominently seated at the front during Nick Clegg's speech and is to be given a role in the coming general election campaign. Ian Wrigglesworth, a former Labour MP who has never won any election as a Liberal Democrat, held the stage immediately before Clegg.But the leader under whose six-year stewardship the party increased its size in the Commons from 46 MPs to its peak of 62, before he was forced out of office after owning up to a drink problem, was absent, unmentioned, and unremembered, like an embarrassing relative who has to be locked away. And this claims to be the nice party.

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