At my school there were beaters; male teachers – and it was only male teachers – who had to use the cane to keep discipline. The more sadistic among them would announce your punishment then keep you waiting for anything up to a week, so that as an errant pupil you had plenty of time to imagine the pain you were going to experience. As I read the Sunday newspapers I reflected that the Labour Government and the Labour Party must feel much like an errant pupil awaiting a pre-announced beating as the European and local elections speed into view. This is going to be bad, very bad, and I don’t feel any the better for having more-or-less predicted it five years ago. Indeed, from Labour’s point of view it is – pardon the cliché – the perfect storm. But Labour will not be the only sufferers. I have friends in all of the mainstream parties and none of them – with the exception of the Greens – is remotely happy.