My name is Louise Phillips, and I used to be a Liberal Democrat press officer. It's been almost a year since I left the party, and over 14 months since the General Election when we went into coalition with the Tories.
And to get things straight right off the bat, no, that's not why I left.
I should start by saying that I was by no means one of the most senior comms people in the party - no one handed me a flak jacket when I joined the office (although I was given a Norman Lamb badge by my predecessor, which remained blue-tacked to my computer screen along with George Orwell's rules for the English language, some key contact numbers and a sarcastic quote about Martin Amis for the duration of my time in the office). I started out as a member of the four-strong print team, moving to run the broadcast desk for the election.
Being on the print team meant you were in charge of around four portfolios - in my time I managed to cover health; education; work and pensions; culture, media and sport; communities and local government; and transport. One of the plus points of being under-resourced was that we all gained a lot of experience in different areas.
Day to day, the job involved sending out press releases in our given areas (although members of the Lobby who complained at the frequency of communication from our office would be surprised at the number that weren't sent), coming up with new story ideas, pitching, going to meetings with various teams, having coffee with journalists and watching Sky and the News Channel with a degree of obsession that is probably unknown outside the world of media and politics.
Coming up with story ideas was one of my favourite parts of the job - often influenced by articles I had read in my mother's copies of Good Housekeeping ('I hear that STIs amongst the over 50s are on the rise - can we PQ that?').
Conference was always good. I loved Conference. It was hard work - there were times when I would hang up my mobile to find I'd accrued three voicemails in the time it took me to deal with one call. But we didn't make it easier for ourselves. When we were told, before my first conference, that it was a good opportunity to get to know the Lobby a little better, I'm not entirely sure that staying up drinking with the Press Association until three o'clock in the morning before waking at six to put together a briefing for the Today Programme was quite what anyone had in mind, but we managed it.
Sadly, the alternative party slogan we came up with one evening ('Progressive as F**k') was never officially approved, although it did appear in large letters in the sand on Bournemouth beach. And despite small wagers that had been placed to the contrary, I made it to breakfast on time every morning. I was younger then.
The fortnight after Conference was once described to me like being dumped. After being the centre of attention for five whole days, suddenly Her Majesty's press corps stopped calling. They rarely even answered emails. Which gave us time to do the G2 crossword and some serious detoxing, but also brought into sharp relief the fact that we were press officers in the third party, and we would have to keep working hard to get into the press (if you want to make headlines, make news was the general advice).
Of course, things became more serious when the election started to loom. Gone were the long days of recess where the newspapers became obsessed with foreign crisis or river-bound whales and we would have little more to do than play Facebook scrabble and trawl through old copies of Hansard desperately trying to find something newsworthy we could sell. Going over accreditation lists, and working out plans for press around the three leaders' debates, I thought back to walking into the press room for the first time at a Lib Dem Conference (they can't all be here to see us?!), which then seemed like small fry.
The election was an extraordinary experience. It was undoubtedly the hardest I have ever worked, but the most fun I've had doing it. Looking back at photos that were taken in the weeks following the coalition negotiations, I looked like a wreck. Four weeks of working at least 12 hour days (not to mention the fact that I'd taken to subsiding on diet coke, cigarettes and Cowley Street sandwiches) definitely took their toll.
So, a year down the line and I've left the world of politics to pursue an altogether more sensible career in corporate communications. Do I miss it? Yeah, kind of. But my new job is fantastic, and in a different way it's just as challenging and definitely as rewarding.
I don't think I'll ever stop being obsessed with British politics (or stop shouting at the tele during PMQs, or refrain from giving wholly unnecessary advice to former colleagues in Westminster bars about political strategy). But I have to say that a year on and with a lot more to learn, I'm really enjoying being on this side of the fence.
And it means that I don't have to feel guilty if I fall asleep during Newsnight anymore.