He went as pink as Mandy's nightie ... the nation's eyes were brimming with salty tears

David Cameron addressing supporters and media during a launch of the party's election manifesto at Battersea power station

David Cameron addressing supporters and media during a launch of the party's election manifesto at Battersea Power Station

To that giant, upturned coffee table, Battersea Power Station in London, to watch the Tories' manifesto launch.

As we rolled through the gates we were confronted by a sign: 'Cringle Dock Refuse and Recycling Centre.' So: They were launching the brave new era in a rubbish tip.

Actually, the thing was pretty zippy, though hot. By the end, David Cameron was so pink he could have been Peter Mandelson's silk nightie.

Not that it was a one-man effort, this manifesto launch. Oh no, sir! To prove the point, we had to sit through interminable solos by the likes of Michael Gove, Caroline Spelman (she's the one who speaks like a primary school teacher), Theresa May and Lady Warsi.

Lady W was so short she was almost invisible behind the lectern. There was just the top of her head and this loud, chatty Yorkshire voice.

A certain, remorseless heartiness was evident from the moment scores of youngsters arrived in pale blue T-shirts. Among these twenty-somethings was the welfare reform boffin Lord Freud, who is a great deal older and looked like a trendy vicar.

Pop music thumped out of loudspeakers and we were handed the hard-bound manifesto, all 118 pages of it. The production quality (glossy pages, sober type) made me think of the sort of promotional volume sometimes produced by American Scientologists.

There was a lot of public-school hair on display  -  young men who needed a trip to the barber  -  and toothpastey optimism. Pretty youths mingled alongside Shadow Cabinet members. Sir George Young, Bart., looked a bit baffled, his few strands of hair untidy like a pineapple's top-knot.

Andrew Lansley found himself next to a heart-wrenchingly photogenic Polynesian girl.

In a different age she would have worn little more than a garland round her neck and would have been holding out a large rum cocktail with a purring 'aloha'.

Mr Lansley was rapt, quite rapt. No doubt his mind was concentrated purely on policy matters.

One Shadow Cabinet member not invited to help with the warm-up proceedings was the Tories' Transport spokesman, Theresa Villiers. She was seated in the bank of supporters at the back of the venue.

By chance, she was visible on TV screens much of the time. If you were watching it, Miss Villiers was the one with the sloping face and the electric blue outfit, flashing two distinctly unsettling eyes. Herman Munster's kid sister.

While Mrs May was up on the podium, my dears, the look of envy beaming forth from those Villiers eyeballs was hot enough to barbecue a Wall's sausage.

Certain words kept being stressed: JOIN, TOGETHER, COME. Again, I found myself writing 'church' in my notebook. The atmosphere of volunteering fervour, of clappy evangelism, hymnodic sodality, the determination to think the best of everyone (there was no Gordon Brown bashing yesterday) was inescapable. And just a little exhausting.

Every shadow minister who spoke used a running spiel about how the voters were invited, nay, enjoined, to drop whatever they were doing and apply a shoulder to the wheel of civic governance.

It was there on the front of the manifesto book: 'Invitation to Join the Government of Britain.' Absurd, really. But not unclever. And certainly fresh after the misery of Monday's Labour manifesto launch.

It also contrasted to the atmosphere at UKIP's manifesto launch just an hour earlier in a tiny room in Westminster. 'Don't write us off completely,' said the party's best-known figure, Nigel Farage. I rather like that morose pessimism.

Back at the Tory beano, David Cameron cried: 'Let's make this the biggest call to arms the country has seen in a generation.'

If we do have Cameron's Britain it may well be a bit like being on a Scouting expedition or, dread thought, a company team-building away-day.

Mr Cameron, so energised that he injected a wind-surfer's kink into his body, disowned not only the big state but also individualism. I can see he is aiming for. He doesn't want his Tories to be thought selfish.

But I wonder if he has underestimated the bloody-mindedness of the English. We remain, deep down, a nation horrified by the prospect of audience participation.

After Labour's lone loonie, walking the moors while talking to himself, the Conservatives broadcast their first election broadcast last night. It featured David Cameron sitting in his London garden, talking fervently about togetherness.

He appeared to be entirely alone. Mr Cameron was so keen on the idea that he kept leaning towards the camera lens, at one point almost climbing through the TV screens.

Blue shirt thinking. He was open-collared, the colour of the crisply-ironed shirt matching his eyes as they blazed with urgency. We could see the turkey skin of his neck and we could sense his fist being clenched as he conveyed the importance of his words.

'How many people do you need to change a country?' he asked. Then he gave us his answer: 'All of them.' What? Even John Prescott?

Just as we were starting to enjoy the cherry blossom in Mr Cameron's small plot, in kicked some upbeat music  -  light as a glass of April hock  -  and the storyline introduced us to three heroes of the Cameroon Republic.

First to bat: Julie, a working mother of two from Llandudno. You could see why they liked her. Julie had the supermodel looks of a Helena Christensen  -  and the community spirit of Mother Teresa.

She helped at a charity called Happy Faces (named after the Shadow Cabinet, one feels certain) and she radiated even more goodness than an oatcake. Next we met Danielle, who in addition to being a 27 year-old pillar of the community in Brighton, where she helped at the soup kitchen of a homeless charity, was also pretty and, even better, black. Three cherries on the fruit machine dial!

Danielle urged us all to 'get stuck in'. I suppose she says the same to the diners at her soup kitchen.

Mr Cameron, doing the voiceover with husky ease, now gave us our third candidate for canonisation.

His name was Ian and he was married with two children. Ian ran a hydraulics business in Ellesmere Port (currently a Labour seat) and we saw him making coffee for his employees. Later he played a board game and fed swans with his lovely family. The upbeat music swelled.

Lest we forget the object of the exercise, the camera returned to Mr Cameron, still there in his garden, biting his lip and moving ever closer. Back off, people!

Strong families, he said, were 'the bedrock of society'  -  and with that he shook his head, which in modern politics is a sign of affirmation, not denial.

His eyes narrowed as he told us that all the policy initiatives in all the gin joints in all the world were but nothing compared to communal involvement.

'Yes, this is ambitious,' he growled. 'But what else is life for?'

A nation's eyes brimmed with salty tears.