Alex Massie

The End of the Honeymoon?

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A good deal of excitement on the left today as YouGov's polling suggests the coalition's "honeymoon" has ended. The government's approval rating is now just +4 (41% approve of its performance, 37% disapprove). I don't know why anyone should be surprised by this.

Not only was the budget astringent, the coalition has launched any number of large-scale reorganisations of fundamental services including, of course, education and the NHS. So, in addition to the economy - and government rhetoric has tended to stress the short to medium term ghastliness of everything - there's great uncertainty about schools and hospitals. In fact one could argue that the government is trying to do too much too fast.

I think it sensible to move quickly on these matters since a) political capital depreciates and b) these reforms will take time to produce results and past experience suggests that reforms delayed are reforms abandoned. Nevertheless, rather like Obama in America, one would not be surprised if there were perhaps an undercurrent of concern that the government has bitten off more than is sensible.

Still, Peter Kellner sums up his piece like this:

In past periods of Conservative rule, moods of anti-government protest often helped the Lib Dems as much as, and sometimes more than, Labour. The early signs from the current parliament are that Labour will be the overwhelming beneficiary if the coalition stumbles. David Cameron and Nick Clegg have not yet exhausted supplies of popular goodwill; their personal ratings, thought not as high as in early June, remain positive. We should also note that Conservative support, unlike that of the Lib Dems, is higher than it was on election day.

All true, even if it's hardly startling that the major party that's not in the coalition will benefit from discontent with the coalition's performance. Nevertheless these numbers - while obviously disappointing from the Cameron-Clegg perspective - are only meaningful if there's a disaster and the coalition falls apart. And, of course, declining poll numbers are themselves a reason for the coalition to stick together and hold its nerve...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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