Throughout the past week in Birmingham, the Tories have been doing their utmost to avoid giving the impression they are taking anything for granted as far as the next general election is concerned.
In his emergency address to the nation following the US House of Representatives’ failure to pass the Wall St rescue package, David Cameron did his best to appear statesman-like, magnanimous.
Shadow chancellor George Osborne, in his keynote speech, pledged to speak “quite calmly and quite frankly” about the impending financial apocalypse facing us all.
One casualty of this shift to seriousness was Sunday afternoon’s scheduled celebration of electoral success - denying shadow communities secretary (and poll mastermind) Eric Pickles the opportunity to bask in some serious adulation.
It should be noted this has not stopped Mr Pickles from playing the role of prince of this year’s conference. From fringe events to drinks reception, he has been greeted as a conquering hero and whipped crowds into a frenzy with extravagant promises of genuine devolution and “a bonfire of the quangos”.
Interlacing all of this has been the laconic delivery of some memorable lines. So, here then are a few of 'the big man’s' utterances:
On reorganisation: “I’ve got it all worked out. I am going to keep a loaded revolver in my drawer if I am made Secretary of State and I’m going to kill the first person who mentions reorganisation.”
Asked if his aversion to reorganisation meant he wouldn’t be restructuring RDAs: “Well, you would only say we will be restructuring RDAs if you would say Anne Boleyn was restructured. So, yes, there will be a dividing of the corpse - of RDAs’ powers between local authorities.”
In reply to anyone who quoted him a statistic when asking a question: “It’s a well known fact that 77.3% of all statistics are made up.”
On his attitude to councils working with local stakeholders: “My favourite stakeholder was Van Helsing - driving a stake through the heart to keep quangos in their coffin.”