I didn’t see much of the Tory Conference yesterday. I was locked away in a radio studio for most of the morning, doing interviews in advance of World Mental Health Day later this week. Then lunch with a former colleague before hopping on a (strangely quiet) train to Leeds, where I was doing a speech, time for a run and a quick bite to eat and that was the day pretty much gone.
So BBC Newsnight was my way of catching up, and there was a very telling moment during the programme. No, not Jeremy Paxman looking heavenwards and sneering at a politician, in this case Theresa May. That particular look is as much part of the programme as the titles. Nor was it Paxo’s jovial exchange with Boris Johnson who, yes folks, really is as big a clown as he seems.
No, for me it was the moment when Michael Crick tried to quiz a number of candidates about their position on a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. I know the Tory line on Lisbon is far from clear, and that therefore these inexperienced would-be politicians might worry about a sustained interview on the subject, the likes of which their leader did not do very well at the weekend.
But what was extraordinary was that none of them could utter a word. The order had apparently gone out, nobody was to speak on Lisbon. So all we got were these mumbled dismissals of Mr Crick and, in one case, one of the wannabees pretending that David Cameron was calling him on the other side of the room.
But we also got the sense that these people were not really on the same planet as the people whose support they are seeking. And as they scuttled away to their next champagne reception, I was left realising that apart from a very small number of people at the top of the party, the country knows next to nothing about the people standing for the Tories at the election.
Newsnight gave us a tiny glimpse last night, which made me think this could be an election where local politics counts more than usual, and where candidates such as those we saw last night could become a serious liability.