It’s a scenario that has been played out more than once recently. A major event monopolises the media, the Prime Minister is slow to react, recalls Parliament, and announces a packages of measures that seemingly steadies the ship.
David Cameron has lost none of the self confidence and communication skills that propelled him into No 10. Yet he grows seemingly ever more detached from the Conservatives. Unable to offer the right of his party the blue meat they crave on Europe and unwilling to sack Ken Clarke he is regularly outflanked by Boris Johnson who is becoming the principal standard bearer for Conservatism.
In some respects Mr Cameron is a leader without a party, a point reinforced by the fact that he remains the Prime Minister of a coalition government.
Yet for all this David Cameron remains a doughty Common’s performer. He will never be one for the detail but can stand at the crease and knock a century almost every time. His personal ratings show that the public is not done with him just yet. They might not, however, embrace the fashion (if you can call it that) of wearing your work shoes sans socks on holiday.
Following a shaky start, Labour leader Ed Miliband has continued to grow in stature. He has put himself on the right side of the debates on phone hacking and the riots, even if a number of his colleagues have not. Labour will be pleased to have a significant policy difference – police numbers – on which to attack the Prime Minister. It is an area where the anti-cuts rhetoric actually works so expect to hear more and more about this over the months ahead.
However, the real tests for Mr Miliband lie ahead. If he fails to deliver proposed changes to the voting power of the trade unions at Labour Party conference he will hand a major gift to his opponents in the media and the government benches. Labour insiders are suggesting that it is the unions themselves that are talking up the plans (in order to squash them). If that is the case then there is trouble ahead.
Nick Clegg continues to look like it is a struggle to get out of bed in the morning. All of us have to face up to the fact that we are mortal beings with a finite life span. Booed on a post-riot visit to Birmingham, Mr Clegg must think that jeering is a natural phenomenon in the same way the Queen thinks the natural odour of the UK is fresh paint. It is highly unusual for a politician to be able to predict with some accuracy the date of their demise. In Mr Clegg’s case most are suggesting it will be May 2015. Even if it is over three and a half years away, perhaps it is de-motivating him?
The summer holidays have been cut short. This will put the Westminster Village in a testy mood as the parties prepare for their annual soirees. Without doubt the political (and social) situation remains highly fluid.