Ever since the mid-point of the general election, Vince Cable seems to have been on a downward political spiral. Impossible to keep out of the Cabinet, but nonetheless losing influence. If anyone seriously believed that was the case then today's speech to party conference will have put them right. Paul Waugh described the speech as 'political viagra' and it certainly put delegates in the mood.
This was a tour de force that sent Lib Dem activists away wondering why they ever harboured any doubts about 'The Sage'. It had the jokes and the ritualistic abuse, but was also a very canny bit of political manoeuvring.
First came the jokes. 'This is my happy face' he said in response to those who claim he is looking glum. Sharing power in the coalition was like sharing a bed with the Tories. You had to work hard to keep some of the duvet, he claimed.
The core message was summed up in a single phrase - 'strong disinfectant stings'. The cuts are going to hurt a lot, but they will cure the problems of the economy at the same time. We shall have to see about that. But it is clear, as Nick Clegg said on Sunday, that the party has determined to be wholehearted about the coalition and all that entails.
But Vince was there to be a crowd-pleaser too. He bashed the bankers hard, re-using the spiv line from six months ago. He also incurred the displeasure of the Adam Smith Institute. Both of these are moves which will create some clear Pantone 123 water between the Lib Dems and the Tories. The message of the week from everyone from Nick down is that we may be in coalition, but we are distinct and different from the Tories. This was Vince's contribution to that cause.
With Nick disappearing to the UN in New York for the second half of conference, the organisers knew they needed a new act to close the event. Taking their cue from Labour, they picked our version of John Prescott and so spake St Vince the Abuser.