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

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam