The press conference to relaunch Ed Miliband's leadership started so late it felt like a delaunch. Then it started and became a prelaunch. "Is he testing the mic?" someone said. Then it was pre-lunch and everyone had to go.
Ed – dear, sweet, kind Ed; we must treasure him while we can.
He looked like the keen young kid who comes in to brief the boss about the research, before the big speech is written. He's the one who presents the problem to the grizzled old pros – and they come up with the answer. He's quite zingy for a researcher. He has interesting ideas too. And what a manner – you can't take your eyes off him. When he says "Bring it on!" he looks like he's got his little thumbs bunched inside his fists.
So, what are his recommendations? "We need to be credible. We need to sound different without saying we were wrong before. We need to be new. At least we need to sound new. What about a new reality? We could 'get' the new reality. We could have some tough choices about giving more money to people, we can get it from bankers.
"And then obviously we need a new era of long-term wealth creation. But we must only promise what we can deliver. High-paying jobs for poorly educated people – let's promise that. And responsibility in capitalism, we should have some of that too. But above all, what we really can't do without is someone who can sell all this to the British people."
He's going to deliver fairness, he says. He's going to deliver it three ways. But we all know that if he ever becomes Prime Minister we'll all get a little orange card in our letterbox saying, "Tried to deliver fairness but you were out. Ring this premium-rate number and be kept on hold for three days to arrange a new delivery time."
Maybe he'll deliver it electronically, which is why he's promising to "hard-wire fairness" into the economy. Ooh, you wince. "He'll never get that certificated. It's not in building regs. That old fusebox will never hold out. Who were the cowboys who were in here doing this, and what did they charge you! We'll do you a lovely tidy job of delivering fairness through the hard-wiring for under a trillion. The cash price? That is the cash price, otherwise add 20 per cent."
Even his followers are starting to think they really need another quote.
Labour has had five years of these clenched-fist fightbacks and relaunches, ever since Gordon went wrong. Since then it's been... If the spring elections don't go well... If he doesn't make the speech of his life at conference... If things don't improve by Christmas.
It's a well-trodden road for Labour and it is not certain they'll travel the length of it again. Because they do know what's at the end.