"The question for me, the question for our country, has been: 'is your economic plan working?' They're not asking that question now," he said.
Clearly sensitive to the Labour claims of complacency and hubris, however, he was just as quick to add that there was still pain to come, telling delegates: "The battle to turn Britain around is not even close to being over and we are going to finish what we started."
He had a not-very-coded message for the party, and another to the country. To Conservative members and MPs he was saying 'forget Boris, Gove, May and Hague, I am still the natural successor to Cameron.'
And to the wider audience in the country, he was warning 'I am the only man who can finish the job of recovery and lead you into the promised land, so don't let Labour ruin it.'
He attempted to match Ed Miliband's eye-catching energy freeze policy by announcing a freeze on fuel duty until 2015 "provided we can find the savings to pay for it".
As for the promised land, he offered the surprising promise that if the Tories were elected in 2015, once they had paid off the deficit, they would run a government surplus. And that is not something you hear from Chancellors or would-be Chancellors very often in a lifetime.
Despite the calculated, upbeat message and that exceptional pledge, the speech still managed to appear flat and unexceptional. The party faithful liked it and gave him a respectable amount of applause, but it was hardly a barnstormer.
That was partly because of the delicate balancing act he was attempting between appearing upbeat and "optimistic" while still warning about the tough times ahead. Sunshine and showers all in one speech.
But it was also because much of the rest of the meat had, as is now traditional, been well briefed beforehand.
So there was a lukewarm reception to his announcement on workfare despite the fact his party clearly love it.
Previous studies by Whitehall of similar schemes suggest they are more likely to be seen as attempts to give no quarter to the "workshy" rather than ways of saving significant amounts of money. But that goes down well with his audience who see it more as Work-Fair than Workfare.
He was cheered for promising he would complete the High Speed Rail Link, frack for shale gas and continue to push nuclear power.
His proposals, he said were: "a serious plan for a grown-up country."
That was a jibe at Miliband, but he went further with a calculated assault which revived memories of the Labour leader's Marxist father Ralph.
"I share none of the pessimism I saw from the leader of the Opposition. For him, the global market equates to a race to the bottom... that is essentially the argument Karl Marx made, that is what socialists believe, but the irony is it's the work of socialism that brings that about."
He had a dig at the Liberal Democrats as well, claiming Nick Clegg had plans to forge a coalition with Vince Cable and that, as he sat around the cabinet table, he knew who had driven all the policies Clegg and his team were laying claim too, such as raising the tax threshold.
At the end of it, he had done plenty to win the headlines he and Prime Minister David Cameron are desperate to garner from this vital conference - on Workfare, fuel duty and the recovery.
And he appeared to have dispelled any final doubts about his position as the second most important and powerful man in government.