All of this would have been pleasantly diverting if the entirety of the British left didn't seem to be labouring under the same delusion. On the eve of what's supposed to be a huge symposium of liberal thought and policy, can we please - just for one weekend - stop behaving as if the Conservatives were already the party in power?
Because the Conservatives aren't in power yet. If Torygeddon does occur, if it occurs, it won't be till after the election in May. After the election, not before. And yet both Labour and the liberal press are behaving like the ballots are already in. This week on Labour List alone, we've had Alastair Campbell's analysis of Cameron's 'grab a gay' policy [ouch] and Ed Miliband's mortifyingly concessionary open letter to Cameron on the environment.
The Guardian is the worst offender in the mainstream press, with Alan Rusbridger positively salivating over David Cameron's tantalisingly unreportable remarks at the Davos conference today. But the blogosphere is by no means exempt. How much energy have we spent over the past six months offering responses to draft Tory policy plans? How much time have we wasted taking the debate to staid conservative social re-engineering projects like the Centre for Social Justice, rather than laying out our own plans for truth, justice and the revival of the job market?
The Conservative party's ideas - sorry, their slogans - are nonsensical, but at least they have some. Broken Britain! Tax breaks for married couples! Character-building! We can't go on like this! It's service-station paperback political narrative, but it hangs together, and it's reasonably compelling. Labour, on the other hand, after six months of lukewarm, weak-willed, quasi-theoretical equivocation, have just about decided that it's okay to use the word "class". The government has come up with precisely zero policy platforms or post-election goals, almost as if it were hoping that twelve years of overseas conflict, widening inequality and educational meltdown would speak for themselves. It's a very special blend of arrogant defeatism, and it's not pleasant to watch.
It's not as if the people of this country are out of progressive political ideas. The work being done by Power2010 and 38 degrees clearly shows that there's a hunger not just for reform, but for liberal reform. Voting is open for the ideas canvassed at the public Power 2010 conference, which include an elected second house, votes at sixteen and capping political donations. In the absence of any liberal narrative at all within the party system, young people of the left have had to invent a whole new kind of politics in an attempt to force attention towards the real nature of the public's thirst for change. Meanwhile, the only strident politics coming from nominally liberal Whitehall parties over the past six months have been direct responses to Cameron's trashy, pulpy politics. As if Labour and the Lib Dems were already in opposition. As if the left had nothing more to say.
It's not pretty to observe the Sun and other such skin-flakes of the lumbering Murdoch empire drooling temporarily over the Cameroons, but it is expected. By contrast, it's bloody embarrassing to watch the left obsessively picking over what ideas Cameron might or might not have about gay rights, the economy, the environment, the poor, the welfare state, whilst at the same time brazenly declaring that Cameron has no ideas. We're discussing his PR machine, his policy platform and his hairstyle with precisely the same sullen illicit exactness with which you might spend a lonely evening examining the vital statistics and profile pictures of your recent ex's new squeeze on facebook, downing shots of cornershop vodka and wondering what she's got that you don't.
That sort of thing is perfectly acceptable behaviour for a week or two, but really, guys, it's been months. It's time for whatever part of the British liberal conference represents the Sensible Friend to turn up, take the booze and recriminations away, and force us into a long hot shower of self-analysis so we can move on and start laying out some coherent, practical ideas of our own.