I feel great sympathy for my old colleague Nick Clegg. Many of us expected a rough ride mid-term, but by now I thought his fortunes would turn as the party matured into government and the tough choices started to reap rewards. With the election looming I was confident that polling would pick up rather than head downwards. So what can he do now?
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.
On Tuesday, the Liberal Democrat Conference will debate and vote on the future of Britain's nuclear weapons system. Putting this controversial issue out for open debate is much to the party's credit and its record on challenging the status quo on Trident is streets ahead of the two main Westminster parties, which remain mired in Cold war thinking.
No policy is perfect nor can it ever deliver only the desired outcomes; unintended consequences are a fact of political life. However the several drawbacks of raising personal income tax allowances raises the question of whether it is the right policy to frame the fairness of the Liberal Democrats, their successes in Government and their future objectives.
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.