The week in review: Things go from bad to worse for the Tories
As the kids used to say, it’s all gone Pete Tong. David Cameron and co have crossed that dirty river where their every action is interpreted as categorical proof of incompetence. It’s all good, healthy, blood-sport fun, unless you’re in the government, in which case it's probably horrible. We are not quite at the point of Gordon-Brown-eating-his-own-fingers-off-in-the-Downing-Street-bunker, but it is visible from here.
Two conferences provided perfectly distilled examples of Labour and the Tories' contrasting fortunes this week. Andrew Lansley went to the Royal College of Nursing get-together. His high point came when he told delegates not to "have an argument about it now". Later, Ed Miliband went and was treated like a leader-in-waiting – not a series of words you associate with him. The next day Theresa May went for her annual humiliation at the hands of the Police Federation. Last year she got silence, which must have seemed a luxury compared to having people laugh in your face. This year it was very much laugh in your face.
Cameron called on the eurozone to "make-up-or-break-up". No-one in Europe cares about his opinion, of course, but the British press still feel obliged to pay attention. It would have been a more successful manoeuvre if his own chancellor hadn’t been warning against speculating on the fate of Greece just a day earlier. It hardly needs saying, but George Osborne rather changed his tune in the speech. And while we're on the subject, have a look at this.
Even figures showing falling unemployment only gave the government 20 seconds of good press, before the Bank of England came out and revised UK growth projections downwards. You barely catch a glance of the silver lining before the cloud emerges nowadays.
It’s all in the polls. Labour is soaring ahead of the Tories. Most importantly, the Miliband-Balls combo started polling higher confidence levels than Cameron and Osborne on economic competence. When you come behind something called the Miliband-Balls combo you know you're really in trouble.
Meanwhile, the government's biggest headache continued apace. There is a delicious irony to the idea that the Leveson inquiry, composed to protect the government from ministerial accountability, has turned into a rolling-news damage machine. Osborne – the only Cabinet minister not to be called – is appearing ever-more soaked in the scandal. Leveson has established his precedence over parliament – including Cameron, Harman and, enjoyably, Speaker John Bercow. Rebekah Brooks, Cameron's 'lots-of-love' BFF, was charged. The start of Jeremy Hunt's political trial comes next week when Adam Smith, his special adviser, and Federic Michel, the point-man at News International, appear at the inquiry.
Get your popcorn. Total political annihilation follows.