John Woodcock: Government not invited to the party

Events in 2012 make this a year of great civic and sporting pride for Britain, but little goodwill seems to be rubbing off on the Government.

John Woodcock: Government not invited to the party
John Woodcock: Government not invited to the party

The received wisdom is that successful national events can give a boost to the politicians in charge at the time. The most commonly cited example may be a myth (Harold Wilson won the 1966 general election the month before England triumphed in the World Cup, not the other way round), but political leaders like to be part of any upsurge in national pride.

Yet the Government's approval ratings remain dismal. The main obstacle is the faltering economy: people are unlikely to get a warm glow from seeing the people they elected join in a national party when they think those ministers are making such a hash of their day jobs.

But problems are piling up for David Cameron's administration in other important areas as well.

Before the election, Cameron presented himself as the candidate who would provide firm leadership in contrast to Gordon Brown's dithering, and bring change and integrity to Westminster after years of steady corrosion rounded off by the expenses crisis.

Just two years in, a disastrous Budget has dented his reputation for economic leadership and his closeness to former News International figures facing serious charges has mired him in a political scandal of his own.

So as the public celebrated the Diamond Jubilee, Cameron was in the headlines for the latest in a succession of messy Budget U-turns.

Euro 2012 - if England make any progress - may not bring solace either. Ministers who want to support the national team may be consumed by explaining their convoluted position on whether to attend matches in a country facing serious human rights questions.

And the run-up to the biggest event, the Olympics, will not be plain sailing so long as the minister who ought to be leading from the front, Jeremy Hunt, remains under a dark cloud over the aborted BSkyB takeover.

None of this will make a jot of difference to the public's rightful pride in things that make Britain great. But people are in no mood to give their Government credit.

John Woodcock is Labour MP for Barrow and Furness, and a former spokesman for ex-prime minister Gordon Brown

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