My text is taken from the Gospel of St Matthew. "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Why do I open this sermon — sorry, column — in this way?
In a famous moment in A Man for All Seasons, Sir Thomas More says to Richard Rich: "Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world...but for Wales?" Of course, despite aiming for it, David Cameron didn't even gain Wales.
In April, I wrote here that for selling out conservative principles, desperately wooing their enemies and deliberately alienating their friends, the Cameron clique "deserved to lose". And — curse of the Outsider column — they lost. Or at least, even against one of the most discredited Prime Ministers in living memory, they didn't win the number of seats necessary to gain power and must now attempt to govern in ignominious coalition with a party that in recent years positioned itself to the left of Labour.
Cameron became party leader after a conference speech in which he told the party that it would have to "change to win". The party trusted this shiny new object and did indeed change. But it did not win. Cameron should have been subjected to the usual treatment meted out to used-car salesmen who are caught selling duds. But the party was in no mood for further catastrophe and so the reckoning appears to have been postponed.
Nevertheless, there remain in the parliamentary party and in the rank and file a number of genuine conservatives. If you spoke to any of these people over the last five years — people on whom the Cameron project relied and whom it has now so completely failed — you were always told the same thing: "Certainly Mr Cameron is not popular within the party. But we gather he will be very popular with the country. So we're going with it. After all, he promises that we will be in government in 2010 with a Blair-sized majority. Then we'll really show them."
But the election happened and the Blair-sized majority did not arrive. The result and the ensuing confusion were the perfect result of a campaign that was probably the worst charade a mature democracy can go through yet survive. In the much-heralded leaders' debates, as in the rest of the race, no serious policy was discussed and no serious issues were opened up or examined.