I ADMIT it. I liked it. The delivery wasn’t great. He started stiffly and he barely relaxed until close to the end.

The heckling, for all that Sir Keir Starmer’s supporters said it made him look strong against the Left, will have made the party look fractious and slightly loopy in many people’s eyes.

And there were only the vaguest, whispiest notions of how the vast technology-driven remaking of Britain was to be paid for. And, oh yes, it felt longer than a dry January.

But it was still decent enough.

There was power in the passages in which the Labour leader spoke of his upbringing, his mother’s illness and his career as a prosecutor.

He wasn’t in politics to fulfil his preening ambition, was the theme. This wasn’t about becoming ‘world king’ as Boris Johnson imagined himself as a child. This was about making a difference for others.

Not about slogans, as he reminded the obstreperous show-offs who thought it was their big chance to barrack him, but about changing lives.

There was even a fruity joke about the Prime Minister. Keir Starmer can tell jokes. Who knew? Okay, one joke.

The message was simple. Forget about the last bloke and his revolutionary fantasies, it’s back to meat-and-potatoes politics for Labour.

Jobs. The NHS. Social care. Education. Fairness. Tackling crime. Getting things done.

Ideological one-upmanship and bearded dinosaur worship are out; winning votes, a broad appeal and modernity are in. Change is in the air.

Power still seems far beyond the horizon for Labour, of course.

The electoral arithmetic facing the party is hideous. As Starmer reminded the conference hall in Brighton, Labour heads into the next general election with its worst defeat since 1935 as its starting point.

The trek back to power won’t be quick or easy, but at least he’s given the party a direction of travel: ‘Middle of the road, here we come.’

He is also on fertile territory with Boris Johnson. His remarks struck at the nation’s core anxiety about the Prime Minister. Competence.

That while he might have romped home in a single-issue election engineered by Dominic Cummings, he’s just no good at the hard stuff.

The current fuel crisis is arguably as much about confidence in the Johnson government as it is about lorry drivers.

When ministers urged motorists not to panic-buy, it didn’t work. They drove to the pumps regardless. They can’t all have been Labour voters.

An awful lot of people who helped return the Tories to power in 2019 didn’t trust what they heard.

Besides the clue in the army being drafted in, flying by the seat of its pants is the government’s modus operandi.

Then there was the attack on the PM as not a bad man, but a “trivial” one, equating his showmanship with superficiality, saying the times demand a serious leader not a frivolous one.

This sets an immediate trap for Johnson when the Tories hold their conference next week in Manchester.

The PM, a man who schooled the United Nations on Kermit the Frog remember, will find playing his old tunes to the home crowd irresistible.

The hand brake will come off, the non sequiturs and half-baked puns will spill out in a tangle of arm-waving, and Labour will say, Look, we told you so.

The electorate know Johnson is no swot, of course, and they gave him an 80-seat majority regardless.

It’s also very clear that Starmer is straining to make a virtue out of his own colourlessness.

The conference slogan was Stronger Future Together, but it might as well have been Boring is Better.

That’s a tough sell in modern politics. Then again, seeing high office being treated like a chore between pranks is also hard to stomach.

The Liberal Democrats won the Chesham and Amersham byelection in June thanks in part to bombast-proof Tory voters there looking sideways at the Prime Minister and his sub-par cabinet and not liking what they saw.

But perhaps the most lethal line of attack in the Labour leader’s speech was the suggestion that Johnson, now that the UK has left in the EU, has simply become redundant and can be discarded as yesterday’s gimmick.

Why is this guy still in Number 10? What is he actually for? What is the point of Boris Johnson anymore? 

“I think he’s a showman with nothing left to show,” said Starmer.

“I think he’s a trickster who has performed his one trick.

“Once he had said the words ‘Get Brexit Done’ his plan ran out.”

He returned to the idea towards the end of the speech too.

“The government is learning that it is not enough to Get Brexit Done. You need a plan to Make Brexit Work.”

Make Brexit Work.

That’s a sharp line.

Not only does it shamelessly steal from the original and brazenly try to bury Starmer’s reputation as an arch Remainer, it it something Johnson cannot shamelessly steal back.

Because the PM cannot admit that Brexit isn’t working, despite the accumulating evidence of it.

Brexit, as sold by Johnson and his allies, was supposed to be a solution not a problem, the answer to a thousand anxieties and frustrations.

But Brexit isn’t the answer to anything. Instead it is a new set of questions for the nation to consider. Starmer is saying that he can address them in a way Johnson never could.

We all know the PM’s great hero is Winston Churchill, in whom he modestly sees himself.

He’s no Winston Churchill. But could Starmer be a Clement Attlee?

After the war was done the country turned to Attlee and Labour to make the peace work. Starmer’s hope is it could now make the same kind of brutal and abrupt shift in his favour.