Six weeks ago, David Cameron could do no wrong. Neck and neck with Labour in most polls, his Chancellor putting his fabled stamp of political genius on the imminent Budget, the Prime Minister was still picking ticker tape from his pockets after getting the full treatment on a trip to the White House.
But George Osborne's trademark red leather ministerial case has turned out to be a Pandora's box, and not a day has gone by since when trouble of one kind or another has not been visited upon the Government in general, and the Tories in particular. What is more, much of it has been self inflicted.
The Budget was so heavily briefed – and a surprise, positive "rabbit" so glaringly absent – that it unravelled almost immediately. First came the "granny tax", freezing the tax allowance for pensioners. A panicked decision to bundle out an announcement on minimum alcohol pricing did little to deflect attention; indeed, even the revelation that Tory party co-treasurer Peter Cruddas was boasting that £250,000 would secure donors a place at the Mr Cameron's dinner table barely interrupted the Budget backlash headlines.
A union-bashing wheeze to train the Army to deliver petrol led first to panic-buying and then to a York woman being engulfed in flames decanting petrol in her kitchen. An attempt to limit tax breaks for the wealthy became a "charity tax", undermining Mr Cameron's beloved, if little-mentioned, Big Society vision. Cornish Tory and Lib Dem MPs have united in opposition to plans to heap VAT on pasties. Others are furious at Lords reform, gay marriage, and tax hikes for churches.
By 17 April, the term "omnishambles" had become part of the political lexicon. While ministers publicly deny the similarities between life in Whitehall and Armando Iannucci's acclaimed political satire The Thick of It, weary Downing Street insiders believe the portrayal of a spin-obsessed government pouring salt into wounds caused by shots to their own feet was all too painfully accurate.
Then, with grim inevitability, the Tory-Murdoch axis struck again. Once, Cameron and co courted the support of the media tycoon. Now that very same closeness is inflicting untold damage on the Conservative brand.
It has been 39 days since the Budget, each grimly headlined day another step towards what could yet be, for David Cameron, a very big fall.Reuse content