Back in 2006, when blogging was cool and Tony Blair was still prime minister, I wrote of David Cameron:
If he is to become prime minister, it is overwhelmingly likely that it will take him two elections to get there.
The really hard thing for him will be to avoid being knifed by his party after he loses the first of those elections.I was right to the extent that it took Cameron two elections to win a majority, but he found a way to avoid being knifed by the Tory right. He formed a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
For a time it looked as though this was deep strategy on the part of Cameron. He had grasped, the argument went, that the near disappearance of the liberal wing of his party made it less electable. So he had co-opted the Liberal Democrats to rebalance the Conservatives,
That proved a severe overestimation of Cameron's abilities. His destruction of the Liberal Democrats at the last election left him at the mercy of his own right wing. Now, after little more than a year, they have done for him.
Could Cameron have continued the coalition after the 2015 election?
The sort of formal deal with candidates standing down that George Osborne offered would never have been accepted by the Liberal Democrats.
But he would surely have lasted long if he had explored the possibility of a non-aggression pact in which the two parties did not try too hard in certain seats. Such an arrangement - more or less formal - existed between Labour and the Liberal Democrats in 1997.