We all have myths we tell ourselves, and that is of true as politics as anything else. For example, when I used to peddle a certain left wing newspaper, I can remember saying to more than one comrade that of the thousands of papers we had sold over the years out there, somewhere, in Stoke-on-Trent are people who have read it, agree with it, and inevitably will act upon it. This hidden mass of sympathetic readers never materialised but it was something that helped keep you going and at least was plausible on the law of averages alone. Hope springs eternal, as they say.
If you step away from the toxicity of the Tory party and its paid little helpers that pepper the commentariat, the Conservatives are in a very weak position. Their economic recovery, which has been achieved by doing absolutely nothing for three years, is one that benefits the well-off at the expense of ordinary workers and our most poor and vulnerable people. Their party is menaced from the right by a populist pretender to the Tory crown. The party organisation itself is in such a state of collapse that it will find it a struggle to carry out the more labour intensive demands of campaigning. And to top it all off, despite not having any policies to speak of, *and* the avalanche of vicious attacks on Ed Miliband's character, Labour remains stubbornly ahead in the polls. The Tories need a crutch, something they can lean on to pretend that everything will be alright. The zombie facts regurgitated week in, week out at Prime Minister's Questions are one set of supports. And the other? Ed Miliband's weakness.
Of course, the Tories and Tory commentators know this isn't true. But where the defence of power is concerned, what trifle is truth? Their only hope is to be as negative as possible, to be as relentlessly base and divisive as they can get away with, to be complacent and pretend everything is healing on their watch. They do this because while they want to, the desperation of their situation simply means they have to.
Ed's imagined weakness is here to stay, sadly. But the best way to tackle it is by refusing to play their game. This government's record is appalling, and every one of their actions demands a positive alternative. At next week's conference that alternative must take form. Voters have to have an idea of what they'll be voting for in a little over a year-and-a-half's time. Because if Labour doesn't develop its own positions and sticks to them, the more the Tory story will play in the media and given the leader's propensity to take Westminster Bubble concerns too seriously, the more likely it is he'll succumb to battling them on their terms.