Where do Labour stand after 2012 conference?

Ed Miliband

There were no gaffes, no defeats, no leadership rows, and no embarrassing pictures with bananas. No one to my knowledge walked out of the conference hall in protest. The security guards did not expel an aged delegate on spurious terror grounds.

No member of the Shadow Cabinet had their resignation briefed out at 3am in the conference hotel bar. And the party leader did not fall into the surf in front of the world's cameras.

So Labour will probably leave Manchester with a sense of job well done. Yes, there were no policies too but that was deliberate. For them, we shall have to cross our legs and wait for another day.

Instead, the Labour faithful depart from the north west confident that they have not elected a dud as their party leader. This week Ed Miliband answered the doubts within his own party over whether he has what it takes to lead them back to power. Many feared they had chosen an unelectable intellectual as their leader. But he gave a good speech that showed he has grown into his role, the gawky stiffness replaced by a more relaxed style that he has thus far kept private.

One party member put it to me like this: in 2010 the idea of Prime Minister Miliband appeared impossible. Last year it was improbable. This week it is now possible. They hope that next year it will be probable and then certain in 2015. As I noted in a previous blog, Labour now believe that the geek is blessed and he may inherit the earth. The voters may still need some persuasion but the party members are now onside.

So, as Harriet Harman said as she plagiarised the words of my esteemed colleague Nick Robinson, game on!

But, as the party conference lingered on unfathomably for another two days after Mr Miliband's speech, one or two doubts have cropped up. The limits of the new One Nation tag line have emerged. This phrase will now become a fixture but it is still not entirely clear what it means in policy terms. The danger is that it becomes a meaningless catch all rather than an analytical framework that shapes what a future Labour government may or may not do.

At the end of this week, Ed Miliband is safe in his job, he has shown he can rise to the occasion, he has raised morale in his party and they leave with a spring in their step as they hum the Red Flag (most don't know the words these days) and make their way home. But what he has not done is set out what he really would do in office.

As a senior Conservative source joked: "It was an incredible feat of memory for Ed Miliband to spend over an hour standing up there speaking without notes or text. It was an even greater feat to spend over an hour up there saying absolutely nothing."