Are Conservatives facing return to the 1990s or 1980s?

David Cameron Image copyright PA

A government which claims that it is facing defeat at the hands of its own backbenchers over the issue which has split the Conservative Party over much of the past quarter of a century - Europe.

A government which is told by one of its self-proclaimed friends that it lacks a convincing strategy for delivering its most important challenge - producing economic growth and creating wealth.

A government which is publicly split over energy policy with the energy secretary and his junior minister facing in different directions on the issue of one small aspect of it - wind power.

This has probably not been David Cameron's favourite day in office.

Today at Prime Minister's Questions he faced taunts from Ed Miliband that he was now as weak as John Major had been in the 1990s - unable to convince either the country or his own party.

That is Labour's growing hope - that this government will increasingly be seen "to be in office but not in power" as Chancellor Norman Lamont so brutally described the Tory government of the 1990's.

The Conservatives' hopes rest on another historical precedent - an era of splits over economic policy, Europe and much besides which did not stop Mrs Thatcher winning three consecutive elections as a certain Michael Heseltine may recall only too well.