There is general agreement that the government is in a mess: sleazy, corrupt, humiliated and, probably even more than the Conservative government in its last days, despised by many of its natural supporters. It is difficult to remember a cabinet held in such contempt by so many. Yet the reasons for the contempt and the extent to which it is shared by the electorate as a whole are less easy to judge. By the limited criteria we generally use to assess these things, the Blair government is reasonably competent. The economy potters along fairly steadily; there have not (yet) been any of those financial 'crises' that have come close to wrecking previous administrations. And unpopular though the government is, it is nowhere near as unpopular as John Major's was. Furthermore, some of its policies are so irrational and alarming - particularly, of course, those towards the Middle East and the United States - that they are put to one side, so to speak, regarded as a mad aberration, which means that they have not yet wholly undermined the limited faith that is all that many voters have ever had in the government. While much of the electorate believes something has gone wrong (possibly badly wrong) there is less agreement as to exactly what that something is.
LRB 7 September 2006 | PDF Download