The Sketch: The twist in the party's DNA won't humanise the Tories

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The Independent Online

Being as God made them, the Lib Dems have always had a decent line on transgendering, no less than on transexualising (that's the one that needs the operation).

The members debated it – or discussed it – or aired their amiable views on it at length yesterday. If the conference knew what they were saying, they agreed they were all for the trans experience in all forms.

It's in their self-interest too because the party will be putting itself forward for transgendering every five years. It's now clear that they mustn't have the operation. Transgendering is reversible, and they do need to be able to present us with their Hermes and their Aphrodite turn and turn about.

Some of us thought the Dems (who are leftier than the Libs) might surgically remove themselves from the Coalition and have themselves grafted on somewhere below Labour's waist.

In fact, staying where they are is essential. The party's left (which is still quite a large, if latent, presence) are the carriers of the other lot of chromosomes – and when the time comes for gender reassignment they'll give a twist to the party's DNA and come to the fore.

Thus Simon Hughes, Chris Huhne, and no doubt Vince Cable. They'd all deny being on the left of the party ("left and right aren't useful terms" etc). But it's as hard to see any of them leading a Tory deal as it is to see Nick Clegg leading a deal with Labour.

And they've got the hang of the hermaphroditic thing better than any us had thought. Simon Hughes (who is, remember, deputy leader of the party) got a round of applause by telling the hall, "I am a rock solid supporter of the Coalition." He went on to denounce Trident, tuition fees and obscene bank profits.

It's not exactly granite of the first grade is it? I've known roast beef that was more rocklike. But nonetheless, it's clever coalition politics. And all this harping on about fairness – whatever they mean by it, it's something they do with far more gloopy credibility than Tories. Fairness for Tories is flat tax and a seven-litre Bentley.

In that sense, the Lib Dems humanise the Conservative Party. What they'll do to or for Labour remains to be seen. They'll find something, if the parliamentary seats are there.

Their talk about the enduring nature of three-party politics may be less than fanciful, as long as they can get enough runs on the board.

So they should thank Chris Huhne who named his four "towering tasks". The first two were to reform something and restore something else – tall towers indeed. The third made me laugh – "make Britain a less selfish society". Yes, good luck with that. And the fourth was saving the planet. And not just the bits we live in. It's a Lib Dem commitment (though I'm not sure conference approved it in a properly referenced and tabled motion) to save the world.

And he thinks we'll be grateful?

I'm no optimist, but if they save the world, and they get the credit for it, it is just possible they'll keep their seats.