LONDON — A government may survive unpopularity, apathy, even scandal, but ridicule is another matter. Yet this is the present, sorry predicament that David Cameron’s government finds itself in. As it marks (“celebrates” is clearly the wrong word) two years in power this week, the British prime minister’s Conservative government is adrift in the polls and struggling to retain the electorate’s respect. The depth of Cameron’s predicament was made all the more apparent last week when, in an effort to put recent woes behind him, the prime minister tried to, as the hackneyed phrases have it, “draw a line” or “move on” from recent woes by “turning the page” and relaunching his government. However clever this strategy might have seemed in No. 10 Downing Street, it sent a quite different message to the country: A successful government needs no “fresh start” — far less a total relaunch.
So when Cameron and his coalition partner, Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, held a chummy news conference on May 8 in a tractor factory — a venue chosen to demonstrate their commitment to boosting manufacturing and getting Britain back to economic growth — they only succeeded in highlighting the unwelcome fact that Britain isn’t working at present and, with the country suffering a (modest but painful) double-dip recession, growth seems but a distant prospect. They may still build tractors in Essex, but unemployment is at its highest in 15 years.