Boris Johnson is keen to keep this conference on message and on his domestic agenda: police, hospitals, national living wage, broadband and bus services.
And when he’s asked a question on something he’d rather not discuss – whether he’s going to defy the new piece of law requiring him to delay Brexit in the event of no-deal; whether he’d had an affair with the tech entrepreneur Jennifer Arcuri or if he’d inappropriately touched a woman – these are the things he pivots to, and quickly.
So when I asked him whether the journalist Charlotte Edwardes was lying when she said he’d had touched her thigh under the table over lunch he said it “is not true” – before moving me quickly onto other matters.
“What I want to do is focus on our domestic agenda,” said Mr Johnson.
“Which is no just massively investing in hospitals, but also broadband and education funding and in giving people opportunity across our country.
“That’s why we pay so much attention to bus services, they make a huge difference to people.”
And what about the issue of whether he had used his position as London mayor to “benefit and reward” tech entrepreneur Jennifer Arcuri?
Facing a possible criminal investigation over allegations that he misused public funds, the nature of his relationship with Ms Arcuri inevitably in the spotlight too, he refused three times to answer whether he had had a sexual relationship with Ms Arcuri, pivoting instead to talking about the current London mayor’s record on knife crime.
Of course the prime minister doesn’t want to get drawn on these questions and of course he would much rather be talking about policy.
But the personal all too often gets in the way when it comes to this prime minister.
And while it’s uncomfortable to ask him questions around his personal conduct or indeed use of language, how he behaves and what he says – be it in the chamber of the Commons or elsewhere – does matter.
A YouGov poll out this weekend found nearly 47% of women thought he was “dislikable”, up seven points since the end of August.
But he knows that, despite all of this, if he manages to get a Brexit deal done and leave the EU by October 31 he will perhaps be riding a surge in support.
It will undoubtedly be a triumph.
And beyond his personal difficulties, beyond his domestic agenda, Mr Johnson will leave this conference to – in his words – “face the moment of truth” on Brexit.
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Because he is entering the final 30 days to do a deal, or not, with the EU.
It is going to be “the tough bit” and in the coming days the UK government will submit formal proposals to try to resolve the issue of the backstop.
He confirmed in our interview that this will involve customs checks on the island of Ireland as part of any new Brexit deal – although he insisted that it would “not involve border posts away from the border” or infrastructure.
Mr Johnson did acknowledge that the principle of customs checks on the island or Ireland was a clear policy break from the May era but said the “tough bit” had to be done.
“This is the moment of truth really, because in the end, the country has to be able to govern its customs,” Mr Johnson told Sky News.
“If you’re going to come out of the EU, you’ve got to run your own trade policy, you’ve got to run your own customs.
“So we have to find your own way of doing that. I won’t deny it that this is the tough bit.”
He confirmed that his new proposals will do away with the EU-UK Joint Report agreed in December 2017 to have no hard border or related checks or controls, preserving the all-island economy.
“The reality is, well, you can’t make both things work at once. You have to accept that there’s got to be a change.
The prime minister added that this would require “a great deal of positive energy to solve.”
Dublin is clear it will not accept checks as part of a deal.
We are entering a hellish final 30 days from his “do-or-die” Brexit deadline.
He said to me in the interview: “I love every day that I am privileged to do this job”.
That spirit will surely be tested in the coming days as the fate of Brexit – and perhaps his premiership too – is decided.
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