NO-ONE doubts that David and Samantha Cameron are devoted parents who were distraught when they got home from the pub one Sunday and realised they had left their eight-year-old daughter Nancy behind.
For once, let’s just skip the moral outrage over an innocent mistake which could happen to any of us.
In the course of an 18-year parenting career any mum or dad will have one or two slips, those very rare occasions when they do something absent-minded which puts their child in fleeting danger.
It is the Camerons’ misfortune that one of their mishaps has ended up on the front pages this week.
But, even with all these caveats, the fact remains that the unfortunate incident in the Plough Inn in Buckinghamshire has reinforced the impression that the Prime Minister is dragging his party down.
It’s not just that the Conservatives are languishing in the polls – all mid-term governments plunge in popularity.
The greater problem for Mr Cameron is that his personal appeal appears to be on the wane too.
Back in 2005 he sold himself to Tory members as the man who could detoxify the brand, who could convince Britain that the Conservatives were no longer the ‘nasty party.’
For a while it seemed that huskie-riding, hoodie-hugging Dave was indeed his party’s greatest asset – even though his modernising stunts grated with the grassroots.
But I’m beginning to wonder if Mr Cameron ever really was that popular. Napoleon once said that he didn’t want a good general, he wanted a lucky one. I think the little Corsican would have been happy for the Honourable Member for Witney to lead his troops into battle.
Mr Cameron was lucky back in 2005 that David Davis, the frontrunner for the Tory leadership, blew his chances with a stupefyingly boring speech at the party conference.
He was fortunate again two years later when Labour decided to give the keys to 10 Downing Street to a man who couldn’t persuade children to vote for Christmas.
And Mr Cameron was lucky the year after when the world plunged into recession – on someone else’s watch.
Yet with all this fortune, with not so much the wind at his back as a gale roaring him on, his party still managed to win just 36% of the vote in the 2010 general election.
Five years of hugging hoodies and Mr Cameron had delivered just 3% more than the notably uncuddly Michael Howard had managed in 2005.
A few months after the Tories missed the ‘open goal’ election of 2010, Labour chose a new leader – nerdy Ed Miliband rather than his suave big brother David.
“We’ve got our party back,” said Neil Kinnock after the result.
At the Tory conference the following week Mr Cameron mocked the former Labour leader. “I tell you what, Neil. You can keep it,” the Prime Minister said to roars of laughter from delegates.
The implication was clear – as long as that massive loser Kinnock is happy with Labour’s direction the party will remain in opposition.
But hang on a minute. Mr Kinnock may never have crossed the threshold of Number 10, but his party won 800,000 more votes in 1992 than Mr Cameron’s did in 2010.
Perhaps, as the Prime Minister hunkers down while the Sun bombards him, he may feel a little more affinity with the former Labour leader.
There has certainly been no shortage of negative headlines for Mr Cameron in recent weeks, with many more sure to come after he appears before the Leveson inquiry tomorrow to chat about the joys of texting and horse riding.
Then there’s the mutterings about a disengaged Prime Minister who spends too much time chillaxing by playing Fruit Ninja.
And there’s Mr Cameron’s performance in the House of Commons which become tetchier by the week.
First there was “calm down, dear”, then “muttering idiot” and unpleasant snipes at Dennis Skinner, a man now straddling the divide between tiresome bore and national treasure.
Fair enough, the House of Commons is a bear-pit so it’s understandable that MPs want to swipe a paw at anyone who gets too close.
But the public still expects prime ministers to behave with a little more dignity than the seething masses around them.
Likeable, affable, modern Dave has given way to angry, flustered, ineffectual David.
If the voters didn’t really like Mr Cameron when he was on his best behaviour, why would they take to him now that the mask has slipped?
And for the Conservative backbenchers, there’s a more immediate question: If David Cameron can’t win elections, if he can’t connect with voters and if he won’t deliver true-blue Tory policies, then why is he still party leader?