The Sketch: A tear-jerker that may save him till the election

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The Independent Online

At the beginning it was everything we might have hoped for. He'd got his wife to open for him. "Oh, that's low," we muttered in a sort of nauseated gratitude. Then as he advanced, humbly, on the stage the sound system played "Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher" and the mix intensified. "Sarah and I are a team," he began. "I am very proud to be her husband." Be still, my rising gorge! Could it get any better than this?

We'd been promised a highly personal speech, something that showed us the real Gordon. So he'd kick his way on to the stage, shouting at the audience for being an ignorant mob of ungrateful idiots and hurl his telephone at them. But as so often, the reality fell short of delicious expectation.

He spoke at very great length but (you can hear the surprise in my voice) really quite well. The voice was up and down in the way audiences like. Loud and soft. Firm and gentle. The occasional sob. Crying grandmothers were mentioned. Dads. Infants having their Sure Start programme removed if the Tories were ever allowed back into power by an absent-minded electorate. Labour achievements over the years were described as disruptive in their time but now "the common sense of the age". That was a happy phrase.

The picture he painted of himself was not unattractive and for the first time it was possible to see how people inclined that way could like him. The hall certainly reacted with loud relief as they found they could applaud and could attempt standing ovations without looking ridiculous. Because for all his faults (ineradicable artificiality, occasional untruth, glutinous splodges of sentimentality) he certainly came across as a leader of his party. I might have to put 50 quid on him staying on through to the election.

But I wouldn't feel I'd done my duty without making a few short observations.

Putting anti-poverty pledges into law is ridiculous. Will MPs be arrested for breaking that law? An 80 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 is a worthless statement because it is unfalsifiable. And his assertions on bonuses, a global regulator and commercial transparency seem merely childish.

But then again, it all went over perfectly well and may give him a four-point bounce until the Tories get their own post-conference bounce (also four points, experience tells us). So: buy, sell or hold? Hold.