TO the relief of many, the party conference season has now come to an end, but that means we are launching into the longest run-up to a general election. It will last at least until next autumn, if not longer.

As the hubbub around Rishi Sunak’s scrapping of HS2 dies down and the glittery dust is washed from Keir Starmer’s hair, we see two very different parties.

The Richmond MP’s is so weighed down by its recent past, by the excesses of the Johnson era and the embarrassment of the Truss days, that Mr Sunak is trying to persuade voters that he is the candidate of change after 13 long years of Tory rule.

By contrast, Labour seems to have escaped the embarrassments in its recent past, with the Hamas outrage in Israel allowing it to show its new colours. It appeared warmly united behind its leader, whereas Mr Sunak spent a week battling to be heard over the Truss/Farage/Braverman/Badenoch sideshows.

While Mr Sunak offered specifics on two of his personal interests – stopping smoking and improving A-levels – Mr Starmer offered only the broadest brush on his biggest ideas of NHS reform and building 1.5m houses.

This looks like the battleground ahead: Labour, not wanting to do anything that will threaten the priceless Ming vase of victory that they are carrying carefully towards polling day, while Mr Sunak will dash desperately around trying to look all sparkly and new while avoiding the disappointing record of his predecessors.

Labour is 15 points in front in the polls and that gap could be seen at the conferences and in the commentators’ responses. Often begrudgingly, they see Mr Starmer as a prime-minister-in-waiting, albeit an “ever so slightly boring” one. Mr Sunak, increasingly a one-man party, has a year left to try to dislodge the priceless vase – for him, it will go in the flash of an eye, even if it will drag for the rest of us.