I remember, back in 2010, when Cameron managed to ... um ... not win an election, I predicted that the Tories would live through some sort of grim equivalent of the ordeal Labour went through in the 80s. I turned out to be wrong, massively, as the Tories managed to form a solid coalition with the Lib Dems and managed to survive for ten years and went on to win an outright majority ...
But, undeterred, I now confidently predict the Tories will find themselves in a situation curiously reminiscent of the 1990s. And the worst bit of the 90s at that. Not the good bit where they won an election.
Some thoughts for the stunned mullets on the right, particularly those desperately trying to spin this result as a victory for Theresa May.
- Your party has no inherent majority. You had one of course, but you threw it away.
- You're relying on a bunch of Irish Nationalists to give you a working majority.
- Even then, you've only got a tiny majority.
- Your leader is humiliated, her authority is broken, her credibility is gone.
Fair summary of the situation, yes? Nothing too controversial or partisan there.
So, the question is, how do you manage to rebuild your party brand so the next election - in 12 months? 18? 24? - isn't a thrashing on the scale of 1997?
- Can the conservatives offer the country "strong and stable" leadership? No, because the coalition has a tiny majority and every time an MP is sick, or mysteriously absent because they don't want to be associated with a piece of toxic legislation, the they risk defeat. They are at the mercy of events and mavericks.
- Can they offer a strong leader that can run a presidential style campaign? No. You tried that, and it didn't work very well. May was awful. Who could replace her? BoJo would be a disaster. Rudd has a tiny majority and is going to be focused on that? Gove is a joke.
- Can you offer a vision that you can sell? No, you don't seem to have any. There was no vision or ambition or hope in 2015. How are you going to find it by 2019 and sound credible? You can't. That's why the Conservative campaigns are so relentlessly negative. They have nothing good to say about themselves.
- Can you rely on the opposition destroying themselves. I doubt it. They did there best in 2016, and the still managed to turn May's coronation into a bloodbath. Corbyn managed to re-invent himself as everyone's favourite batty old uncle, and some big names will be tempted back onto the front bench now that they see power is actually within their grasp.
Remember John Major? A basically sound bloke, whose majority was whittled away over the course of his second term. Eventually, he was left propped up by the Ulster Unionists, but even then he was continually embarrassed in the House. He had to endure continual leadership intrigues, eventually having to suffer the humiliation of asking the party if he was more or less popular than John Redwood! His party was divided against itself over Europe. You see the parallels? By 1996, the Major administration was a feeble, zombie government, shambling on wards, hoping that something would turn up to reverse its fortunes. Nothing did. You'll recall what happened in 1997, I think.
It took the second Major government five years - 1992 to 1997 - to reach the sorry pass May finds herself in. She's starting from the 'shambling zombie' situation Major ended up in.
(And at least he managed to win an election!)
So you've got a couple of years to sort yourselves out, Tories. But I think you'll spend it mired in recrimination, feuding, leadership intriguing, and wallowing in the humiliation of continual defeat and gibbering in terror at the prospect of facing the electorate again.