The Lib Dem mood changes

What world do they live in? That's the question asked so often about politicians who have grown used to being told they're out of touch.

Liberal Democrats have grown used to being told that they're finished as a party, that they'll never be forgiven for the compromises they've made and that they'll get wiped off the political map at the next election.

The significance of this conference is that they no longer seem to worry that that might be true. Gone are the frowns, the introspection, raw fear.

In its place Nick Clegg tried today to instil pride in what they'd achieved and belief that they should do it all again - be ready, in other words, to form another coalition with the reds or the blues after the next election.

In so doing he is confronting those in his own party who crave a return to the comfort and certainties of opposition. He is challenging the country to re-consider its hostility to the compromises coalition brings and, instead, embrace it as a protection from single party extremism.

His central claim summed up in a single sentence - our place is in government again.

Rarely can there have been more of a gap between how a party sees itself and how it is seen by many of those outside politics.

However, the mood shift here shows how quickly things can change.