WHEN William Hague rises to give the opening address of the Consevative Party Conference in Blackpool this morning he will have the daunting task of raising the morale of a party that has had nothing but bad news for the last few months and received yesterday another poll verdict in which, according to the doyen of psephologists, Anthony King, “There is not a single ray of sunshine among the gloom”.

If anyone can lift spirits it is Mr Hague with his biting wit and good Yorkshire common sense. No doubt he will decide that attacking Labour is the best form of defence because, in truth, the Conservatives have very little of their own to attack with, either in terms of policy or leadership.

David Cameron will probably have noticed how little was heard about Tony Blair at the Labour Party Conference, only a few months after his departure from the limelight, and he would be forgiven for wondering whether that will be his fate by the time the Conservatives meet in 2008. Mr Cameron is scheduled to speak on the last day, Wednesday, but it will not be surprising if he decides to intervene earlier in an effort to show that he still has the capacity to lead the party effectively, especially if the prime minister has named an election day.

During the Conference there are nine debates on policy issues, ranging from Urban Regeneration to Childhood in Britain. There is not one on Europe or Foreign Policy!