Outside wartime, rarely have the political stakes been higher. Over the past 12 months, as the eurozone has unravelled, Britain’s economy has reversed into a double-dip recession.
The News of the World haunts Westminster from beyond the grave. The Leveson Inquiry, which began as a review of media ethics, has morphed into an examination of dodgy dealing in high places. If reader feedback on popular websites reflects public anger, many people are already at boiling point. Fury is the norm, not just with ministers but the police, other public officials and the media.
An admission at the weekend by Baroness Warsi, the Conservative Party’s chairman, that she failed to declare thousands of pounds of rental income will add to a suspicion that cheap-and-nasty corruption is the new British disease. With so much cause for grievance, now, you might think, would be the right moment for an upsurge in political engagement – but it’s not happening. A recent study by the Hansard Society shows that, far from embracing mainstream parties, the electorate is more withdrawn than at any time in the past decade. In recent local elections, two thirds of those eligible to vote did not bother. Coalition politics is proving a disaster for conventional democracy.