Chris Moncrieff previews the party conferences for Cameron, Miliband and Clegg
I would hazard a guess that our three main political leaders are approaching the imminent party conferences with considerable dread.
For I cannot recall a previous occasion when so many of the parties' faithful rank-and-file have been so much at odds with their respective leaders, and the party conferences provide the perfect platform for these people to let off steam.
This will not happen, by and large, in the main conference hall, but in the myriad of fringe meetings which, as with the Edinburgh Festival, are the heart and soul of political conferences.
Messrs Cameron, Miliband and Clegg must all be trembling in their boots at the prospect of the mauling, which will almost certainly overwhelm them. Meanwhile, Nigel Farage, leader of he United Kingdom Independence Party, will no doubt be standing smirking in the wings as he watches these political lynchings taking place.
Let us look at the prospects of the three main party leaders...
David Cameron is probably in the most perilous position. Indeed, he is even on record as having said that he is preparing for a new coalition after the next general election.
One commentator inquired who he proposed to make a coalition with if the Liberal Democrats, he predicted, would be routed at that election. "Is it with Ukip or with us Conservatives?" he asked tartly.
And another commentator said that Cameron's views on this reminded him, perversely, of David Steel's ludicrous clarion call to the Liberals all those years ago: "Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government".
This, the commentator said, should be amended in Cameron's case to: "Go back to your constituencies and prepare for defeat".
Indeed, Cameron may now be bitterly regretting having described Ukip members as "fruitcakes" among other gratuitous insults, given the fact that many Tories, despairing of Cameron, have been deserting to the Ukip fold – though not yet in droves.
But Ukip could, come 2015, have robbed the Tories of many crucial votes unless Cameron can act swiftly to stem and reverse the exodus.
Cameron and his henchmen plainly have a lot of hard thinking – and hard work – in front of them if they are going to be restored as an effective political fighting force.
The fact that Cameron usually wipes the floor with Miliband in House of Commons exchanges is not, of itself, going to with the election for the Tories.
Ed Miliband's problems are different but no less worrying. He has come under sustained fire from within his own ranks – including some very senior and influential party figures – for showing no sense of political direction, and of being too quiet during the summer, when he and his colleagues should have been going at the Tories hammer and tongs.
The shadow cabinet has clearly been under-performing – to put it mildly – while Miliband has been urged to reintroduce some old Labour hands, like the former chancellor Alistair Darling, back into front-line roles to stiffen the shaky shadow cabinet.
What adds more to Miliband's already serious problems, is the stand-off he is currently engaged in with his chief fund-raisers, the militant trade unions. There are threats that much of this funding will be cut off, unless he dances to the unions' tunes. That is, of course, a disgraceful state of affairs, but it burdens the Labour leadership with a problem it could well do without.
Miliband has not demonstrated, so far anyway, that he is a resounding leader. Many of his supporters are becoming increasingly worried about what they consider to be his pallid performance. He has been told to "turn up the volume" – he had better listen, and pretty quickly, too.
Poor old Nick Clegg! Most of the pundits agree that after the next general election the Liberal Democrats will have been pulverised at Westminster. Many Liberal Democrats are still furious that, in their view, Clegg "cosied up" to the Tories to form the Coalition.
But we need shed no tears for Clegg. If he is ousted from his Sheffield seat, he will almost certainly walk into a lucrative post in Brussels. Another instance of politicians being rewarded for failure.