When the Labour leader got to the key passage of his big speech on reforming union funding, delegates clenched their buttocks, folded their arms and listened in stony silence.
Their faces did not belie the view that Mr M was like an unwanted relative dropping in to a happy family get-together and plunging the atmosphere to somewhere below zero.
When Red Ed, Blairlike, implored the comrades to have the courage to embrace change on union funding, a pin was heard dropping on the far side of the hall.
The best that could be said was the delegates listened with quiet respect, applauding when Red Ed pressed the right buttons on apprenticeships, public ownership of the East Coast railway franchise, bankers' bonuses and, of course, how wonderful trade union members were; they were, he told them, the "backbone of society".
As the brothers and sisters endured rather than enjoyed his speech, one member came close to pointing out the king had no clothes. Janice suggested she was confused about the apparent contradictory and confusing Labour policy. Are you in favour of or against austerity, she asked.
There was applause and cheers mingled with a sigh of relief that someone had finally asked a penetrating question.
Ed blinked and blinked again and declared: "No, we are not in favour of austerity. I'm absolutely clear about that." Phew, thank god for that.
Yet he has pledged to stick to the Tories' spending plans, at least initially, if he gets into power and spoke about how he had to make Labour "credible" - with voters, not necessarily trade unionists.
Remarkably (or not), the Q&A session that followed did not have one question about the elephant in the room - union funding. The brethren of the Press suspected a conspiracy of silence. While Mr Miliband's reception was far from enthusiastic, the chief comrade left breathing a sigh of relief there was no barracking or heckling, and no eggs.