Week in Review: The truth that dare not speak its name
It was a tough week for Ed Miliband. He was facing questions about his relationship with former Labour councillor and Co-Op boss Paul Flowers throughout. He received an absolute hammering at PMQs. And he was trying to play down reports that his relationship with Ed Balls is nearly as bad as that between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
And indeed that was how much of the press reported it.
But while the bluster over the Co-Op rumbled on, the Tories were displaying all the usual problems which are putting the party in such a precarious position.
The week started with Boris Johnson blithely writing in the Telegraph that the rich were an oppressed minority, like homeless people, and deserved a little care and affection. Johnson's columns for the newspaper reveal the tension between his journalist side – always wanting to ruffle feathers – and his politician side – trying to hide under cover. But this remarkable comment revealed a huge amount about the London mayor's thinking, his potential weaknesses as a Tory leader and the thought processes which go through the mind of free market fanatics.
More of the same was on offer when a new backbench Tory group demanded for VAT to be whacked on food and children's clothes, in a sort of anti-Robin Hood electoral suicide note which Downing Street was quick to distance itself from.
David Cameron himself was at it when he reportedly told his people to "get rid of the green crap", in a bid to get consumer bills down in the wake of Miliband's price freeze pledge. Downing Street insists he didn't say it. Perhaps he didn't. But it was too good to ignore – too colourful, too emblematic. It was like Peter Mandelson confusing mushy peas for guacamole: a story so fundamentally true it didn't matter if it was literally true. It stuck because people suspect the prime minister has no principles.
Cameron has gone into full election mode already, snarling at the bit for the chance to attack Miliband over anything. His decision to launch an inquiry into Flowers was rank opportunism at best and, at worst, a use of the state instruments for party political purposes. It's entire function is to embarrass the opposition leader. By the time Cameron came out for PMQs, snarling and ready for a fight, it was quite clear it might succeed. The Labour tried to match the PM for macho posturing, shouting that Cameron was "a loser", but it didn't suit him.
There are voices of sanity out there. Planning minister Nick Boles warned that young people now see the Tories as aliens obsessed with only the rich. His reward was to be ignored by Downing Street and used as a weapon by Labour. Miliband gleefully jumped on the comments – a shame, given that will discourage politicians from any level of honesty or intelligence in future.
Michael Ashcroft, who has seamlessly completed a journey from embarrassing chairman to respected pollster, warned that the Tories high spirits rested primarily on disbelieving the evidence in front of their face.
And Liberal Democrat MP Nick Harvey played the role of the fool in a Shakespearian tragedy, saying the truths no-one else dared to think. He said:
If 36% is the most the Tories could achieve and 34% is the least Labour is going to achieve, plot that on a seat predictor, Labour has already won.
That remains the plain probability looking at 2015. There is little reason to think the Conservative party has noticed.