"Last year we were on version 28 [of the speech] by now; this year it’s version five or six. We have our key themes and it’s a case of sticking to our messages and repeating them in a slightly different way," one special adviser recounts, standing in front of their minister yesterday channelling The Thick of It and insisting their charge commit the prices of household groceries to memory.
"We have a zeitgeist list, rather than a tape," he reveals. "And none of us has had a chance to catch up with the last episode of Breaking Bad."
Talk of a post-conference reshuffle has now been downplayed with rumours of a quick cull to promote women before Parliament returns and the promise of a more a wide-ranging performance review and team refresh in the spring.
It’s enough to keep those MPs keen and affluent enough to attend conference on the same page, while the whips team has been silently policing the fringe, attending and observing events with the potential to be troublesome.
Michael Gove has every right to be irritated that yesterday’s announcements on Pupil Premium Plus and family-friendly tenancies were lost by a media obsessed with the Mayor of London’s possible return to the House of Commons in 2015 and ongoing analysis of Ralph Miliband’s patriotism.
Spare a thought for Maria Miller, however. One of four Cabinet ministers scheduled to speak in the smaller Exchange Auditorium rather than the main conference hall (the others are Theresa Villiers, Owen Patterson and David Jones), she earnestly addressed a near empty room while nearly 2,000 queued to see Boris perform.
Meanwhile International Development Secretary Justine Greening bailed early last night to watch Fleetwood Mac in concert at the Manchester Arena. Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.
Sarah Richardson is a director of public affairs at Edelman.