Some say it started with the budget. Others suggested the damage was done when David Cameron stood by and watched the Leveson enquiry drag News International further into the mire. But whatever the reason, David Cameron and the Conservatives appear not only to have lost the support of the right-wing media but they have actually become their prey.
Following the budget the front pages were full of highly charged talk of a "raid on pensioners". And these weren't just the Murdoch attack dogs - even the Daily Mail accused George Osborne of picking the pockets of pensioners:
Some suggested this was a token mid-term kicking of the kind which proves of little consequence when the right-wing press rally behind the Conservatives in time for any important election. Perhaps for the Mail and The Telegraph it was meant to be. But it didn't stop with the budget or with stories out of the media's control.
Next came a timely and clearly orchestrated Sunday Times sting exposing David Cameron's £250,000 dinners for Tory party donors, for anybody who thought this might not be a personal and deliberate campaign:
That sparked a fresh wave of criticism across the wider right-wing media. And the ink was hardly wet on those damaging headlines when two fresh crises hit Cameron - petrol panic and pasty tax. The latter may seem a trivial story on the surface but it provided a perfect, bite-sized 'us and them' story for the papers to tell in one headline, one picture or one cartoon. It set a trap for the Tories which they blundered into, inviting ridicule and scorn alongside the more damning headlines about dangerous scaremongering and panic on the forecourts:
These stories would be classic tabloid fodder at any time of course but the blood lust with which the Murdoch press in particular were telling them has been hard to ignore by anybody who believes the press can still make or break a general election.
Writing on Twitter, Charlie Beckett, director of Polis, wondered how the Tories had engineered their worst headlines in 38 years. The Sun's political editor Tom Newton Dunn went less far, though suggested these were still Cameron's darkest days in the media since coming to power. The PR man was finally being unravelled by the headline writers and picture editors he once courted so eagerly.
Other commentators struggled to see the way back for the beleaguered Tories:
Some of the most interesting Tweets however came early in this bleak chapter for Cameron, from the puppetmaster pulling the strings behind at least three of Cameron's biggests detractors. Rupert Murdoch was clearly revelling in catching Cameron upon the Sunday Times' hook. His pointed reference to a "full independent inquiry" removed any doubt this might be Leveson related:
So how long will it last? Until Murdoch has unseated Cameron, until he has caused the Tories some election misery in early May or until he is happy that Cameron has received a suitable reminder as to who is boss?
Certainly there is more to come. The Sunday Times this weekend is coming back for a second bite of the 'Cash for Cameron' story which will likely spill over into next week's papers:
The most obvious problem with a 'fight to the death' between Cameron and Murdoch is that once it is over, we'll still be left with Murdoch.