Lenin said that whole decades can pass without anything happening. Then there is a week in which a decade’s worth of change occurs every day. One sees what he means. Because of the douceurs and steadily improving amenities of modern life, even High Tories have come to share a lot of Whiggish assumptions about inevitable improvements in the human condition. They tend to express their pessimism, not while hunted from cave to cave by homicidal Lefties, but in comfortable drawing rooms, over a good bottle. Yet recent events owe far more to the wheel of fortune than to any naive belief in progress – and Hamlet was right. Fortune is a strumpet.

The other day, Michel Rocard died. At the risk of sounding callous, many people’s response to the obituary traffic would have been: “Oh, so he was still alive.” It was different back in 1981. Then, almost every expert on French politics thought that Giscard d’Estaing was bound to win re-election to the French Presidency (almost justifies Michael Gove’s denigration of expertise). It was assumed that Francois Mitterrand was pedestrian and unelectable. But everyone agreed on one point. If Rocard had been the opposition candidate, he would almost certainly have won. Giscard would have been in mortal peril. Rocard was not the candidate. But Giscard was in mortal peril (served him right: that bad eminence of grenouille superciliousness).

Then there is the influence of sex. Which ever organ governs male sexual appetites, it is not the brain and even if she is a strumpet, Fortune can be unforgiving. But for an incident in a New York hotel bedroom, Dominique Strauss-Kahn would have been President of France. It might well require a nominally left-wing politician to tackle France’s economic sclerosis. M Strauss-Kahn could have been tough enough to succeed: an autocrat as well as a phallocrat. If his priapic tendencies had become known, would the average French voter have cared? After all, he would not have arrived for cinq a sept on a motor scooter.

Then there is General Petraeus. If he had not been indiscreet, he might well now be striding towards the Presidency. That would have been excellent news for the US, and the world. As it is, our American friends are faced with a choice between a horse’s ass and a congenital liar. This should have been a Republican walkover. The party obviously concluded that Donald Duck could beat Hillary. Then they chose him. It is fortunate that global affairs are so stable, so predictable: safety and security wherever one looks…

In Britain too, there could have been different outcomes, though sex played no part. If Michael Gove had never got into – political – bed with Boris Johnson, he would now be in the final two, heading for the hustings, and might even be favourite. Instead, he is not only seen as a conspirator, but a failed conspirator: a poor man’s Iago. That is not fair. Idealistic to a fault, Mr Gove would have been a hopeless conspirator. By doing in Boris, he did his country a service. Boris is no more an Othello than Theresa May is a Desdemona.

But there is another British politician who might now be ruminating on the vicissitudes of fate. After the first ballot in the 1997 Tory leadership campaign, with William Hague firmly in the saddle, Robert Salisbury (then Cranborne) said: “William should now scratch.” “What do you mean” said I: “he’s going to win.” “That is what I fear. Don’t get me wrong. I think William has it in him to be a good, even a great, Leader of our party and Prime Minister – but not yet. Running him now is like putting a four-year old horse into the Grand National. You end up with a ruined horse.”

In 2001, William did indeed have a crashing fall. It is possible that his appetite for politics never recovered. But suppose he had not left the Cabinet and the Commons? If he had been available for this leadership contest, there would have been no second fall. He would have won easily, probably after a Queen of the May-like coronation.

What might have been: decades in a day: uncertainty everywhere. There are no indications that British politics is about to become boring.