Leading article: What a shambles

Every time the Government caught a glimpse of blue sky... the rain came down again

Share
Related Topics

Six weeks ago, David Cameron was still frequently hailed as a natural prime minister, a leader who looked the part and who carried himself with authority. Even those who disagreed with him were inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt for his surface charm and easy manner. His personal opinion poll ratings were negative, to be sure, but markedly less so than those of Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg.

Then, 39 days ago, George Osborne stood up in the House of Commons to deliver one of the least successful Budgets in modern history. Every day since then, as we chart today, one bad news story for the Government, and particularly for its dominant Conservative part, has followed another. Several of these presentational disasters arose from the Budget itself, as its measures unravelled for hours, then days, then weeks after Mr Osborne sat down. The Prime Minister and his inner council of four Cabinet ministers, the Quad, were steeled for adverse notices for the cut in the top rate of income tax, the "tax cut for the rich". They were not expecting a drubbing for the granny tax, the pasty tax and the charity tax.

While Mr Cameron was off balance, he was knocked again by an unforced error by Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, who urged people to panic-buy petrol in jerry cans. The headlines have been relentless since. Every time the Government caught a glimpse of blue sky, such as when Theresa May, the Home Secretary, announced the arrest of Abu Qatada, the troublesome cleric, the rain came down again – in this case when it turned out that she had got the date wrong.

Last week was the Government's worst since the election. On Monday, documents published by the Leveson inquiry exposed apparent collusion between Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation in last year's bid for BSkyB. Mr Hunt's account of himself in the Commons on Wednesday was poor. Indeed, he claimed twice not to have had any conversations with News Corp's head of public affairs during the bid, when the evidence is to the contrary.

At the very least, Mr Hunt needs to return to the House to explain that discrepancy. His attempt to seek refuge behind the Leveson inquiry failed on Friday, when the judge refused to alter his timetable to allow Mr Hunt to give his evidence early. Mr Hunt should now explain himself fully in Parliament, and, having promised to disclose relevant documents to Leveson, he should now publish all his communications with News Corp, his special adviser and Nos 10 and 11 Downing Street.

But the most important news of last week was the failure of the British economy to respond to its purgative medicine. Even if, as Hamish McRae reports today, last week's figure is almost certain to be revised upwards (the average revision over the past 13 years has been +0.5 points), it is now beyond contradiction that Mr Osborne's prescription has failed.

This newspaper has argued since the coalition was formed that it planned to cut public spending too quickly. Now that this has been demonstrated, Mr Osborne, having disavowed a Plan B, has to stick with his mistaken policy – in the mistaken belief that he may at least be given some credit for consistency.

The Independent on Sunday has also long argued that Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne are not as clever as they think they are. Last week's metashambles should remove any doubt on that score. Mr Murdoch spoke on Thursday of the reverberations of the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone, saying: "You could feel the blast coming in the window."

Now Mr Cameron can feel the double blast of foolish and unprincipled closeness to Mr Murdoch, and of his failed economic policy, coming in the windows of Downing Street.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Read Next
'Our media are suffering a new experience: not fear of being called anti-Semitic'  

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk
Turkish women have been posting defiant selfies of themselves laughing at their deputy PM's remarks.  

Women now have two more reasons to laugh in the face of sexism

Louise Scodie
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In my grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel