The Boy Dave may have done good this week, but he couldn't change the fact that oppositions are at the mercy of events. Here's today's Journal column.
It was, of course, a Conservative Prime Minister who coined the famous truism about the nature of politics - namely that governments are invariably at the mercy of “events, dear boy, events.”
But what Harold Macmillan didn’t say was that oppositions can be just as vulnerable to sudden, unexpected changes in the political weather.
The truth is that “events” are an ambivalent force of political nature, and can just as likely ride to a government’s rescue as to blow it off course.
And in the case of the global economic crisis, it is David Cameron’s Conservative opposition – not Gordon Brown’s Labour government – who have been left scratching their heads.
This week’s party conference in Birmingham should have been the opportunity for Mr Cameron to “seal the deal” with a British electorate that has still not quite taken him to their hearts.
With a lead in the opinion polls of around 20 points going into the conference season, their plan was to give the public a much clearer idea about what a Cameron-led government would actually do.
But the global credit crunch changed everything. New policies which had spent up to two years in incubation swiftly had to be torn-up or rewritten.
Mr Cameron’s own keynote speech apparently went through five or six rewrites as each new twist in the economic crisis hit home.
In the circumstances, he didn’t do half badly. Platform oratory is one of the Tory leader’s big strengths and many who watched his speech on Wednesday would have seen a PM-in-waiting.
His line about how it would be “arrogant” to try to prove you’re ready to be Prime Minister was just the sort of self-deprecation the British naturally warm to.
He was right, too, to say that if experience were the only criterion for choosing a PM, the government would never change – though wrong to compare himself to Mrs Thatcher in this regard.
The Iron Lady was far from being a political novice when she entered No 10, having served in Ted Heath’s Cabinet for four years and been an MP for 20. Mr Cameron, by contrast, only entered the Commons in 2001.
But David Cameron’s real problem this week was not lack of experience, but lack of relevance.
The economic crisis has left the Tories not only impotent in the face of events but ideologically on the wrong side of the argument.
Their traditional support for deregulation and free markets – and traditional opposition to the role of the state – is now looking increasingly at odds with the new political and economic realities.
They also seem confused as to which way to turn. For instance, they were against the nationalisation of Northern Rock, but in the case of Bradford and Bingley this week, they were rather unconvincingly in favour.
And if Mr Cameron has not been aided by events in the financial world, neither has he been helped by much else that has been going on politically over the past 48 hours.
We began this conference season with poor Nick Clegg trying to get a look-in amidst the financial turmoil, and we end it with the Tories too being overshadowed by happenings elsewhere.
First, there was the resignation on Thursday of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair at the instigation of London Mayor Boris Johnson.
Although Sir Ian’s demise was long overdue, the bull-in-a-china-shop fashion in which Mr Johnson handled this will, in my view, come back to haunt him.
Then yesterday we had Mr Brown’s long-awaited reshuffle – and the sensational return of former Hartlepool MP Peter Mandelson for a third spell in the Cabinet.
In a sense, justice has been finally done. Mr Mandelson was forced to quit the Cabinet in 2001 after the Hinduja passport affair despite having done absolutely nothing wrong.
There is no doubting it is a massive coup for Mr Brown as he seeks to unite his fractious party and imbue it with an “all hands to the pump” mentality as it seeks that elusive fourth term.
He was rebuffed by Darlington MP Alan Milburn, rubbished by former Home Secretary Charles Clarke - but blow me if he hasn’t gone and landed the biggest Blairite of them all.
Labour Kremlinologists will immediately see the significance of Mr Mandelson rejoining the Cabinet at the same time as his old rival, Newcastle East MP Nick Brown, who returns as chief whip.
The briefing war between the Blair-Brown camps in the ’94 leadership battle was largely played out between these two, and this will be seen in the PLP as an attempt finally to put the old feud to bed.
The return of Mr Mandelson undoubtedly represents the biggest gamble of Mr Brown’s career. If he is forced out a third time, the Prime Minister’s judgement will be shot to pieces.
But if on the other hand Mr Mandelson can bring to the Brown administration the same strategic brilliance he displayed in the early years of Tony Blair’s leadership, it will have been a gamble worth taking.
As for Mr Cameron, he is now being forced to face up to an uncomfortable truth about opposition – that while oppositions merely talk, governments can do.
Over the past few weeks, Mr Brown has used the power of incumbency, the power to shape events rather than be blown about by them, to absolutely maximum effect.
A lot of very clever and influential people thought that the Prime Minister might not survive this conference season, but against the odds he has come out of it far stronger than when he went in.
One thing is absolutely certain. If Mr Brown is going down, he is certainly not doing so without a fight.