What would happen if -- if! -- Cameron can’t form a government this week?

Could the Tory party be finished for ever?

Let me preface this by saying that David Cameron may well be prime minister by the end of the week. However . . .

At the end of my piece for the magazine out today, I touch on what might happen if he fails to form a government this week, speculating that -- after the Tories pursued a "core vote" strategy in 2001 and 2005, and were then seen (wrongly, in my view) to have "modernised" fundamentally in 2010 -- they would struggle to know where to turn.

Already, the recriminations have begun on the Thatcherite right of the party, saying Cameron should have stuck to harder-line policies. But in reality, he has, on every issue from tax to Europe to immigration to welfare to the family, and -- as I have always said about Cameron -- if he loses it will be not because he changed his party too much, but because he didn't change it enough.

Nonetheless, the likelihood is surely that, thanks to the blanket media narrative that has declared him a "moderniser" and a centrist, the party will once again lurch to the right, possibly under the leadership of David Davis or Liam Fox.

That is if Cameron goes, of course. But as I point out in the piece, the Tories are much more ruthless than Labour about getting rid of leaders who fail. Some say the "men in grey suits" could move in swiftly for the kill.

But there is no doubt that Cameron has performed extremely competently if not wisely as leader, and a party that has become so used to depending on his personality may baulk at the prospect of getting rid of him.

As a senior backbencher told me, the "problem" is that, as Mehdi Hasan explains here, the goalposts have been shifted so far between where they were months ago, when many people expected Cameron to win by a landslide, and now, when some would regard a hung parliament as a success for him.

Nonetheless, having been seen to have tried every strategy, the Tories would be in crisis -- and perhaps be finished for good as a force in their own right -- if they don't win this week. However, as I said at the beginning, Cameron may well win on Thursday, and win big. We shall see.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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Leader: Trump and an age of disorder

Mr Trump’s disregard for domestic and international norms represents an unprecedented challenge to established institutions.

The US presidency has not always been held by men of distinction and honour, but Donald Trump is by some distance its least qualified occupant. The leader of the world’s sole superpower has no record of political or military service and is ignorant of foreign affairs. Throughout his campaign, he repeatedly showed himself to be a racist, a misogynist, a braggart and a narcissist.

The naive hope that Mr Trump’s victory would herald a great moderation was dispelled by his conduct during the transition. He compared his country’s intelligence services to those of Nazi Germany and repeatedly denied Russian interference in the election. He derided Nato as “obsolete” and predicted the demise of the European Union. He reaffirmed his commitment to dismantling Obamacare and to overturning Roe v Wade. He doled out jobs to white nationalists, protectionists and family members. He denounced US citizens for demonstrating against him. Asked whether he regretted any part of his vulgar campaign, he replied: “No, I won.”

Of all his predilections, Mr Trump’s affection for Vladimir Putin is perhaps the most troubling. When the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, warned that Russia was the “number one geopolitical foe” of the US, he was mocked by Barack Obama. Yet his remark proved prescient. Rather than regarding Mr Putin as a foe, however, Mr Trump fetes him as a friend. The Russian president aims to use the US president’s goodwill to secure the removal of American sanctions, recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and respect for the murderous reign of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. He has a worryingly high chance of success.

Whether or not Mr Trump has personal motives for his fealty (as a lurid security dossier alleges), he and Mr Putin share a political outlook. Both men desire a world in which “strongmen” are free to abuse their citizens’ human rights without fear of external rebuke. Mr Trump’s refusal to commit to Nato’s principle of collective defence provides Mr Putin with every incentive to pursue his expansionist desires. The historic achievement of peace and stability in eastern Europe is in danger.

As he seeks reconciliation with Russia, Mr Trump is simultaneously pursuing conflict with China. He broke with precedent by speaking on the telephone with the Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, and used Twitter to berate the Chinese government. Rex Tillerson, Mr Trump’s secretary of state nominee, has threatened an American blockade of the South China Sea islands.

Mr Trump’s disregard for domestic and international norms represents an unprecedented challenge to established institutions. The US constitution, with its separation of powers, was designed to restrain autocrats such as the new president. Yet, in addition to the White House, the Republicans also control Congress and two-thirds of governorships and state houses. Mr Trump’s first Supreme Court appointment will ensure a conservative judicial majority. The decline of established print titles and the growth of “fake news” weaken another source of accountability.

In these circumstances, there is a heightened responsibility on the US’s allies to challenge, rather than to indulge, Mr Trump. Angela Merkel’s warning that co-operation was conditional on his respect for liberal and democratic values was a model of the former. Michael Gove’s obsequious interview with Mr Trump was a dismal example of the latter.

Theresa May has rightly rebuked the president for his treatment of women and has toughened Britain’s stance against Russian revanchism. Yet, although the UK must maintain working relations with the US, she should not allow the prospect of a future trade deal to skew her attitude towards Mr Trump. Any agreement is years away and the president’s protectionist proclivities could yet thwart British hopes of a beneficial outcome.

The diplomatic and political conventions embodied by the “special relationship” have endured for more than seven decades. However, Mr Trump’s election may necessitate their demise. It was the belief that the UK must stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the US that led Tony Blair into the ruinous Iraq War. In this new age of disorder, Western leaders must avoid being willing accomplices to Mr Trump’s agenda. Intense scepticism, rather than sycophancy, should define their response.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era