Back in the day when I was an MP, I warned the House of Commons that the chances of an impact by a 'Near Earth Object' - more commonly known as a comet or asteroid - are 100%. Worse still, I claimed the chance of an incoming object large enough to wipe out most, or all, of the human race is also 100%. It's just a matter of 'when.' People laughed, a lot. They thought that this was one wacky campaign too many. One paper showed a picture of me with the title MP to blame for the end of the world. But I knew my ground, as my grandfather, Ernst Öpik, was one of the world's leading astronomers on this subject.
Nick Clegg's not a terrible person. Even though his people made personalised anonymous briefings against me, and though he broke a commitment he made at the time of his leadership election, I forgive him. What's harder to forgive is his bloody-minded determination to stay in charge even though just about every performance indicator available shows that under his leadership the party has gone backwards. Remember when he said his goal was to double the number of Lib Dem MPs? I do. Instead, he's already presided over the second biggest numerical decline in Lib Dem MPs since 1945.
With the closure of the Ministry of Defence desk specifically dealing with claimed alien encounters in the UK, we now have no formal department to analyse - or respond to - any potentially legitimate claim. In other words, if E.T. phones home, all he'll get is 'number unobtainable.' But how likely is a call from E.T. in the first place? Well, let me put it this way: I'm not a conspiracy theorist but I do believe in aliens. I also believe in interstellar spaceships and life on other planets. Is this rational? Far from being outlandish, this is the only logical conclusion to draw about the universe and our place in it.
Now admittedly, this was my first party conference but as the train wheezed into Brighton station and I peered through my rain-spattered window at the black clouds being tossed about the seaside sky, I remember thinking what an apposite congregation of vapours it was to herald a Lib Dem conference at this particular moment in time.