I have managed to meet the PM three times over the past four days (and I may even post some pictures). Actually, that's one of the freaky things about a party conference. It is a heaven for political geeks like me. There you are, walking down a corridor and suddenly Andrew Marr or John Pienaar appear or you trip over Tony Benn smoking a pipe or Andrew Rawnsley grabbing a quiet five minutes with someone. Ministers and other MPs are really happy to chat about things - I managed to talk at some length with Meg Hillier about ID cards and also had a few words with the Des Browne from Defence, Ed Balls from education and Yvette Cooper about housing.
Over the past week, I have heard Gordon use the following phrase at least twice in my hearing.
'I don't know when the Prime Minister is going to call an election.'Blair used that exact phrase in the run-up to 2005.
Frankly, I think the party is transitioning with all speed to a state of readiness. We know that organisers are being employed and that everything is spooling up. I said from the start that my belief was that the name of the game was to be ready to give the PM the option to go when he wanted. At the start of the week, I was firmly of the view that it would be May 2008, but I'm now waiting, because I think it will probably be Nov 1.
Curiously, the Tories can probably decide this for themselves by having a really good, united conference next week. As the odds are that they won't and will continue their infighting and disunity, my forecast is that Gordon will hold a cabinet meeting on Thursday, quietly slip off and have a word at the Palace and then announce on the afternoon. If he's feeling really nasty, he might do the deed on the Wednesday and drown out Cameron's speech that afternoon. If he's feeling plain evil, he presses the button on Monday and slams the brakes on the Tory conference altogether.
You know something? If and when he does give the word, we'll be ready. As Lord Kinnock said on Monday night, we've got a job to do on the Tories and that's
'to grind the bastards into the dust.'