The Conservative party is much the most formidable electoral machine in political history. In the past, it has recovered from misjudgments and even disasters, because it never found itself on the wrong side of history for very long. In Chris Patten’s phrase, the facts of life are Conservative. Most Conservatives believe that they are the true national party; that their country is never safe for long unless it is under Conservative stewardship.
Now? In recent months, this great electoral machine has come close to succumbing to St Vitus’s dance. If the party had set out to trash its own brand, it could hardly have done better. Until the past couple of days, Conservatives were faced by the biggest threat in their history: Boris Johnson. De mortuis: it is probably now safe to leave him to find the next outlet for his insensate anarchic egotism – with one caveat. Boris Trump, also known as Borisconi, resembles another figure from the political past: Rasputin.