Thursday morning at the LGA conference was given over to set-piece speeches by the leaders of the Tories and the Libdems. There were plenty of contrasts and pointers for the future.
Firstly, "Dave". It was the first time I've seen Cameron 'in the flesh' so to speak, and he is a hugely polished performer. There's been some media chatter that ultimately he will be succeeded by Boris as party leader. The last 2 days demonstrated to me the gulf in class (ahem, politically speaking) between them - Boris simply isn't in Cameron's league.
He even tried to ape Blair by making some announcements that made the faithful squirm, including elected mayors for all major cities (whether the people want them or not).
Dave used the new buzz word "localism" a great deal, but for the most part it seemed to be a cover for the same old Tory ideology from the 80's. More power and resources for the voluntary and charitable sectors sounds fine in principle, but under the Tories last time that meant less money and reduced council services. So Cameron's hand-wringing over a broken society would have more resonance were the Tories not viscerally opposed to Sure Start, which has done more to transform the lives of some of our most disadvantaged families.
With all the parties trying to don the "localist" mantle, you might have thought that the LibDems would be ideally placed. Surprisingly then, Nick Clegg gave a muted and downbeat speech. He talked about the old LibDem shibboleths of local income tax and more accountability of PCT's, but that was about it.
The LibDems are facing something of an open goal at the moment as far as local government agenda is concerned - alas (to mix my metaphors) their policy cupboard seems to be bare.