The political conventional wisdom in Britain is that the increasingly tired Labour government, bereft of ideas, is headed for an inevitable defeat at the next general election, whenever that election comes.
The Conservatives are already considering the calibre of the large intake of new MPs that they expect to gain in the class of 2010- for May 2010, the last possible date for the election, now looks like the most likely date. The polls currently point to a sufficient advantage for the Conservatives to gain an outright majority and put David Cameron into 10 Downing Street as the fifty-third Prime Minister since Sir Robert Walpole took office in 1721.
Under the circumstances one might expect that we could now be getting a much clearer idea of the kind of ideas that will underpin the ideology of any future Conservative administration. Yet there seem very few clear pointers. Since all but one of the prospective Conservative MPs opposes the ban on hunting with dogs, we may expect that this may be repealed. Yet on the critical issues of the day: the economic crisis, the continuing war in Afghanistan the opinions of Conservative politicians are expressed surprisingly sotto voce.
Only on the European Union has David Cameron expressed a decisive preference- unfortunately it has been a demonstration of exceptionally bad judgement. The Conservatives who have broken away from the mainstream right wing alliance, the EPP, and created their own, more sceptical alliance have followed a quixotic and counter productive policy. With the continuing rebellion by some Conservative MPs, the Conservatives have proven unable even to lead their own creation. It is a considerable embarrassment. While the public blame for the fiasco has gone to Edward Macmillan-Scott who has been expelled from the Conservative delegation, the real cause of the problem lies in the poor judgement of David Cameron who has rejected considerable counsel in order to demonstrate his own Euro-scepticism. As usual, the issue of Europe- relatively unimportant in the eyes of the electorate- continues to create humiliation for the Conservatives.
So apart from counter-productive Euro scepticism and a commitment to reintroducing fox torturing what will the Conservatives actually bring to their prospective tenure in office?
Well certainly not leadership, it appears.
This week has seen the public breaking of the consensus over the war in Afghanistan. The long suppressed mumblings of dissent amongst the military have finally become a consistent roar. The large loss of life this week has brought to a head the fact that the UK must make a strategic decision either to commit far more resources and ensure that our troops have the equipment and the numbers to achieve their strategic goals, or if those strategic goals can not be achieved then it is important either to adjust the strategy or to leave the war zone altogether. Such are the decisions that we face. But it has not been David Cameron who has placed this critical issue at the centre of an honest debate before the British people, it is Nick Clegg the leader of the Liberal Democrats.
Meanwhile the increasingly serious economic crisis underlines the incredible risks that Labour is taking with their policies of massive expenditure. As unemployment continues to rise, it is clear that the government has failed to achieve its policy goals. In order to stabilise the economy it is quite clear that substantial government cutbacks are now essential. It is not David Cameron or George Osborne that have pointed out these home truths, it is Nick Clegg and Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrats' Shadow Chancellor.
On issue after issue David Cameron is demonstrating a political cowardice that is rapidly becoming his most obvious calling card. If he intends to lead then it behoves him to tell the British People how he intends to do so and what his political lodestone will be.
The suspicion is growing that Cameron offers only a warmed-over and partial Thatcherism combined with a Blairite commitment to dishonesty - but without the courage to say so. In a few years time as Mr. Cameron looks to the money of the retirement lecture circuit it is increasingly likely that even if he can obtain a majority, his government will rely on the inanities of public relations rather than the intellectual discipline of real leadership. His administration would have been a failure and a failure based on poor judgement and intellectual cowardice.
Moreover there is still the distinct possibility that despite the political and economic bankruptcy of the Brown government, the electoral system does not deliver a decisive victory. A replay of 1974 with Mr. Cameron or Mr. Brown seeking an early second election to gain a bare majority is a real possibility. However in the face of the second phase of the economic crisis, the global markets could punish the UK severely for such a political vacuum. Talk of coalitions- anathema today- could be critical for the stability of the Pound and indeed the wider economy.
Does Mr. Cameron have the judgement to lead in an economic environment of growing crisis and a political environment that could be dramatically different from any we have seen in a generation?
His mistakes over Europe suggest that his judgement is cloudy at best- and that is partly why support for the Conservatives is fragile.
The Tories will quickly learn that just "not being Labour" may not be enough to get Cameron the job he so keenly desires.