Last year Theresa May coughed. This year she played the piano. And danced.
They listened attentively in the slower movements. As she banged the keys with conviction they clapped, sometimes in polite appreciation, sometimes with more enthusiasm.
And at the crescendo they rose to their feet with the standard standing ovation. There was even some cheering.
You will have seen her take the stage to the strains of Abba’s Dancing Queen, reprising some of her famous dance moves which are now catching on at all the best nightclubs in Shropshire, although I admit I haven’t been along to verify that.
But you didn’t see a piano? You didn’t hear her playing?
Bear with me, I shall explain. Later.
You have to hand it to the Prime Minister as she gave her speech at the close of the Tory party conference in Birmingham.
Disrespected in Salzburg, some party members at war with each other, her leadership in question, and with former Cabinet ministers openly revolting, it was as if nothing untoward had happened.
She actually seemed quite relaxed, considering.
Her speech lasted about an hour. You can probably watch it on catch-up telly, but if you don’t want to, here it is: Security. Freedom. Opportunity. An end to austerity!
Let’s have a better standard of political debate.
And Jeremy Corbyn is a dangerous red bogeyman and if you get rid of me you might end up with him and that would be really terrible, wouldn’t it, have you heard what he is saying, him and his lefty loons on the Labour front bench (etc, etc).
There was not even a mention of the B word for over 20 minutes. B is for Brexit, by the way, not for Boris.
She gave a detailed pitch in favour of her Chequers plan, the one almost everyone else thinks is Monty Python parrot-like.
The Conservatives are the party, not of the few, nor even of the many, but for everybody, and where there are problems Theresa is going to fix them.
Opportunity? Why, this is the nation where a man can come over on the plane from Pakistan and his son can become Home Secretary.
At this point the television cameras zoomed in on the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid.
And this is the country where if you have spent time in care, you can be in the Cabinet.
The television producers must have been uncertain as they hedged their bets, giving us a wide shot of a row of random Cabinet ministers.
There was a lot of values and vision content, the tone clearly intended to be optimistic, uplifting, and confident.
There’s going to be a Best of British festival in 2022, apparently, when British creativity will be on show in a year-long event.
I shouldn’t fail to mention her warm-up act, the Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, aka The Voice. He gave a sort of Shakespearean Henry V speech which came over as a cross between the delivery of Laurence Olivier and the basso profundo tones of Patrick Stewart.
Oh yes, if you’ve read this far, you must be really curious about that piano playing I mentioned.
This is my analogy for Mrs May’s position as party leader during the Brexit negotiations.
To explain; Bob Stanford Tuck was a British fighter ace who was taken prisoner but escaped and made his way to the Russian lines.
His biography told how the Russians he fell in with had a prisoner who turned out to be a very talented pianist. As long as you keep playing the piano, the Russians told the prisoner, we’ll let you live.
The prisoner played day and night, night and day. They laughed, they cheered, they slapped him on the back, they gave him drinks.
Then came the point when the prisoner could play no more. The Russians shot him.
During her speech Mrs May mentioned that for the past two years she had worked night and day on a Brexit deal.
This is the poisoned chalice she was given when she ascended to the position of party leader. For the moment, nobody else in their right mind would want to be supping.
She has taken one for Team GB.
One way or the other, it will not be long now before her piano playing will come to an end.