HAVING said prior to his closing speech to the Tory conference that he would quit if he ever became a liability to his party, it is tempting to sit back and wait for Michael Howard's resignation to hit the headlines.
For this speech was a performance so abjectly substandard that liability is a mild judgement on the man who heads Britain's main opposition party.
What was not potty in the speech was merely unbelievable and what was most evident was that Mr Howard is occupying a dreamland made up of equal proportions of eccentricity and wishful thinking.
Indeed, Mr Howard would do well to think of an immediate career change, possibly into gardening, where his propensity to cut would indicate some success in the maintenance of lawns and hedges.
The only truthful thing that he said was when he described the conference as a "fantastic" gathering, which indeed it was. But fantasy is no substitute for policy.
His projections for his first days in office, in the unlikely event of his party winning the next election, read rather more like the sack of Rome than the assumption of governmental powers by an incoming party.
A freeze on Civil Service recruitment, ending the prisoner early-release scheme, halting cuts in the armed forces, starting 24-hour surveillance at ports and getting rid of two-thirds of the staff at the Department for Education, coupled with vague pledges of tax-cutting, reflect the preoccupations of a party with no overall policy, but a desperate longing for power at any price.
And who on earth could possibly believe his pledge to restore the link between state pensions and earnings? With the tax-cutting agenda that he proposes, about the only way that he could deliver the link is in tandem with a wage freeze.
But what was most frightening about the speech is that the government's present policies are so little at variance with it.
On immigration, Mr Howard's Fortress Britain is not too dissimilar to Tony Blair's, differing only in emphasis.
On the Civil Service, he is neck-and-neck with Gordon Brown in the race to batter the service to death, although Mr Brown's 104,000 planned job cuts are more specific.
And with his projected ministry for homeland security and prisons programme, he is nearing the levels of authoritarianism achieved by David Blunkett.
Mr Howard has highlighted the need for Labour to shrug off its new Labour masters and put some flesh on a progressive programme if it is to differentiate itself from the reactionary maunderings of a senile and sterile Tory Party.
Otherwise, the danger is that the voters themselves will not be able to identify the one from the other.
Mr Howard, famously described by his colleague Ann Widdecome as having "something of the night" about him, is highly unlikely to lead the Tories into the electoral light.
But Labour must set a very different agenda if it is to hold onto power when the Tories emerge from the twilight and shed their vampiric leader.
In the long run, propounding Tory values can only aid a Tory recovery.
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