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We've not forgotten where we've come from

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Chris Mason Chris Mason | 06:20 UK time, Sunday, 18 September 2011

So, for John Pienaar and me, and the rest of the 5live team, the party conference merry go round begins. I am scribbling this at 0620am on Sunday morning, sitting in the Media Centre at the ICC in Birmingham. Fun, certainly. Glamorous, certainly not.

The Greens, UKIP and Plaid Cymru have already gathered, and the SNP will get together next month. But for the next three weeks it's the Lib Dems here in Birmingham, Labour in Liverpool and then the Conservatives in Manchester.

Last year when the Lib Dems got together, the raw excitement of power was easy to spot. One bloke told me how pleased he was that he'd had to queue to get in to the venue. The waves of indifference about a gathering of Liberal Democrats were no more.

But this year I already detect a different feel. The party got whacked in elections in May, and the casualties of that unpopularity are everywhere. 747 councillors turfed out by the electorate in England. The Lib Dems are in government. But they have lost, and need reassurance it was worth it. Reassurance too that Nick Clegg and the other Lib Dem ministers remember where they've come from.

A final thought. The blizzard of terrible jokes that accompany speeches during conference season are an occupational hazard for those of us covering them. It's boom time for tumbleweed.

But with a joke about David Cameron's connections in high places and a slew of attempted gags about George Osborne's private life, no Lib Dem wanted to be seen to be missing an opportunity to have a gentle, or not so gentle pop at their coalition partners. Expect plenty more talk that emphasises the clear yellow water, if you like, between the Lib Dems and the Tories.

Follow all the latest from the conferences on Twitter - @ChrisMasonBBC

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