It's a fad when giving a speech in politics these days to step away from the podium and freewheel about the stage; it's some sort of trick to try and show the audience you are 'real', like them.

But not many people in politics are really like real people. They have an interest in politics for a start.

So if the politician trying to pull off the trick is not a showman, like our PM or Nick Clegg for example, then it may go horribly wrong. Step up Danny Alexander, pictured above.

Giving his speech at Lib Dem conference yesterday the chief secretary to the Treasury tentatively left the safety of the podium in the same way that a little boy steps away from his mother's legs.

But rather than freewheeling, he trundled. Stages aren't made for trundling. But that's what he did, a little to the right where, bolt upright, he stood as though trying to position himself behind another imaginary podium adjacent to the one he had just left. His arms groped about in a spectacle made yet more bizarre by the fact that from one angle, his position in front of the backdrop picturing renewable energy related images made it look as though he had wind-turbine blades coming out of his head.

The only blessing in it all was that it may have distracted at least some people from the jokes he was making. Even the audience at his own party's conference groaned at one of them. I didn't think that was possible. You could paint a boiled egg yellow and have it clapped at a Lib Dem conference, as you could paint one red or blue and have it applauded at the Labour and Tory events. But as it turns out Danny Alexander's joke stank the place up worse than a boiled egg.

Admitting that the last Budget was not the Coalition's finest hour, he went on to tell how his special adviser got married a few weeks later. He then said: 'And I will always think of that time as four U-turns and a wedding.'

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Yes, I know. Not so much a case of 'you had to be there' as 'thank the living heavens I wasn't there'. It's a shame, because some of the things he had to say were actually quite significant.

The Inland Revenue has raked in an extra �4bn from tax dodgers this year, for example. He also confirmed the Lib Dems will refuse to allow an extra �10bn to be cut from the welfare budget.

After his main speech Alexander was due to talk at a fringe event in the nearby Hilton Hotel but when he arrived and began it became clear his microphone was not working.

'Speak up,' shouted someone; 'one' being the operative syllable. The rest of the audience, having just come over from his main speech, accepted the piece of good fortune that had been offered to them.