When Parliament went on its summer break back in July, prospects were looking good for Prime Minister David Cameron. Growth, jobs and consumer confidence were all rising and the Conservative Party was closing the gap with Labour in the opinion polls. But Cameron returned to the Commons on Oct. 7 a weakened leader.

Three key factors have cost Cameron his positive position since the start of the parliamentary recess: a defining conference speech by Labour leader Ed Miliband; Cameron's own disappointing conference performance; and the government's Commons' defeat over Syria.

Each of these factors is symptomatic of deeper problems with Cameron's leadership. Labour is seizing the initiative because Cameron's vision for his government is unclear. The prime minister's flittering concentration and reliance on a narrow circle of advisers lost him the vote on Syria — one of too many parliamentary humiliations suffered by his government during its three-year tenure.