When Parliamentary arithmetic forced the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to govern together in May 2010, many had cause to be concerned. First past the post had done its job of delivering Commons majorities for decades; the UK was more used to party leaders insulting each other from their dispatch boxes than sitting around a table thrashing out compromise.
More concerning still, the junior party in the arrangement had never seen power. Not a single Liberal Democrat MP had had the privilege of carrying a red box. How, wondered the civil servants whose job it is to be concerned about such things, would the party cope, putting aside the easy indiscipline of opposition to actually make decisions at a time of national economic crisis?
Three years in and those fears look to have been misplaced, in the true sense of the word. For it is not the the junior party that is cracking under the strain of government, but the Conservatives. The party of Winston Churchill, governing at a time of challenges not equalled since that leader, has been thrown into a tailspin by a mustard-trousered maverick who has taken to touring the country doling out shallow populism to apathetic voters.
That many Conservatives themselves had not seen power for over a decade is no doubt part of the explanation, with MPs forgetting some of the basic rules of politics: governing is tough, mid-term results are always bad, when living standards suffer expect your party to suffer too. So the (actually relatively small) Basil Fawlty contingent of the Parliamentary Conservative Party has seized the moment, hijacking an agenda with potentially wide electoral appeal to clog up Parliament and the airwaves with interminable discussions about their favourite subject of Europe.