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

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £550 - £650

£550 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Traded Credit Risk - Investmen...

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: The West flounders in the Middle East morass

Independent Voices
David Tennant as Hamlet  

To vote no or not to vote no, that is the question... Although do celebrities really have the answer?

David Lister
All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf