With the country on a war footing, each party desperately tried to give the impression that they were not partying this year. But behind the scenes, the hotel bars remained packed. What appeared to escape attention was that in Brighton, we saw the first shoots of Old Labour to re-emerge, evident in the chancellor's old-fashioned Keynesian speech and in the domestic part of the prime minister's keynote address in which he repeatedly referred to the shortcomings of the private sector. Even Mrs Beckett got in on the act with familiar warnings that the farming community had to get its act together. At one fringe meeting she promised DEFRA would be a friend, albeit a critical friend, to the industry. But with friends like these who needs enemies? Nevertheless, a close adviser told me the secretary of state had had a good conference. I assume, because the threat of armed conflict drew attention away from non-frontline ministers like her. That brings me neatly on to the Conservative Party which soldiered on in almost total obscurity. Iain Duncan-Smith tried to distance his party from the past. Maggie was banished, the extremist Monday Club expunged of its MPs, and he kept talking about re-connecting' with the people. He should have told the new Shadow DEFRA team who remain wedded to the past. In her platform speech Ann Winterton, the new Shadow agriculture minister seemed to have forgotten about long-suffering consumers ­ something her opposite numbers over at the real DEFRA are always banging on about. Darwin said: "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one that is most adaptable to change." On this evidence, the Conservative Party is rushing headlong towards extinction. {{NEWS }}