KEITH NEWBERY Why 2012 will seem a very long year in politics...

At this time it’s often more beneficial to look back on the previous year rather than focus on the next 12 months (which look precarious and unpredictable in so many ways).

In particular, it’s useful to assess how our leading politicians have emerged from the fray.

David Cameron has ended on a high note after a propitious set of circumstances in Brussels led him to be compared with the best bits of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.

But I suspect the boost in popularity will be fleeting.

I don’t trust the man and always compare him with the weird scribbled tree the Tories adopted as their party symbol a few years ago.

The trunk looks reasonably steadfast, but the boughs are huge and therefore capable of swaying with every prevailing breeze.

When the big storm arrives and the gusts become particularly severe, it could well topple over.

However, Cameron’s cause is helped enormously by the wretched state of the opposition and its leader, Ed Miliband.

He made a promising start to his tenure as Labour leader, but has degenerated into a snuffling incompetent.

Whether he or any other politician likes it or not, PMQs is their effective showcase; most voters are simply not familiar with, or interested in, the detailed work carried out in Commons committee rooms.

Therefore, party leaders, in particular, have to be on their best form during this crucial half-hour each week.

Miliband is adenoidally-challenged – which is hardly his fault – but he has compounded this handicap by perfecting a series of expressions which range from gormless to catatonic.

His ‘jokes’ and sound-bites are so laboured they provide Cameron with all the time in the world to point them out and sneer before cuffing them aside.

When big brother David makes a confident but occasional contribution from the back benches you can almost hear the Labour contingent indulge in a wistful sigh of communal regret.

Nick Clegg, I suspect, is already planning a career move to Europe.

His credibility (such as it was) is now in tatters and he realises that whenever the next election is called, the Lib Dems are in for the biggest ballot-box battering of their mercurial existence.

Oh, one final thought – don’t be surprised if an election is called within the next 18 months.