Governments in Britain have been responsible for a lot of cock-ups. But in less than two years the current government seems to have managed the impossible - to appear simultaneously nasty, corrupt, uncaring, arrogant, irresponsible and incompetent all at the same time.
It was meant to have been so different. 2010 was meant to have been the year that "Dave" Cameron (of aristocratic lineage and distant relative to the royals) had demonstrated his de-toxicification of the Conservative party. It was famously said by Theresa May (seems ironic now...) that the Tories were seen as the "Nasty Party".
The Conservatives in 2010 failed to win an outright majority (to Cameron's private astonishment); evidently, the British people were not yet fully convinced that the Conservatives had purged the "nasty" element from their blood. And so the last two years have evidently proven.
Not that many Conservatives seemed to have noticed, or cared. Once they have managed to convince (connive) the LibDems into making a grand bargain (which the Tories could use to their own ends when convenient), the Conservatives tended to act as though they had won the 2010 election outright. The likes of Cameron and his semi-aristocratic chums saw their place in government as a "natural right". Never to be spoken publicly, of course, but it was always privately thought that it was "their turn" to govern; even though they had never been in a position of real authority, they naturally assumed that they had the "in-built" ability to govern.
This confidence trick worked, for a while. The public bought into to argument that "there is no alternative" to cuts as the way to repair the economy; yet the government failed to admit that their package of public service "reforms" were not in any way related to the state of the deficit, but simply a change they wanted to make for its own sake. Even though no-one had voted for it, and that much of it was not even in their pre-election manifesto. In other words, much of the public sector reforms were imposed undemocratically. They were ripping the heart out of the nation's institutions simply for the sake of it.
"Same Old Tories?"
But all the while, charming, gregarious Cameron would be genuinely hurt and surprised to find that people thought he and his could be doing anything undemocratic or dishonest. His motives were purer than pure, surely.
But by the spring of 2012, the aftermath of the government's budget, and a series of other blunders and scandals showed the Conservative government's true face. The economy was not getting better due to the government's programme; it was getting worse. The government denied it; blamed it on other factors, anything but their fault. And even when the government could deny the truth no longer, they still claimed "there is no alternative".
Meanwhile, "honest" Dave's ministers continued to make cock-ups, then blame them on someone else. The government was making it a habit of desperately wanting to give the impression of being in total control, except when they had to accept responsibility. Like the Home Secretary, Theresa May (she of the "nasty party" epithet), who refused to accept responsibility for two high-profile cock-ups; and like the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who was clearly in breach of the rules when dealing carelessly with a corporate merger. And these ministers remained in their posts as they were close allies of the Prime Minister. "Honest" Dave Cameron (baronet) seems to charmingly think that it's honourable and better to protect your friends to the hilt. Charming perhaps, but an attitude that belongs in the 18th century rather than the hard-headed 21st, and adds even more to the impression that he and his chums are out-of-touch.
So the impression of the Prime Minister and Chancellor, as "two arrogant posh boys" seemed to sum the whole thing up - even better when said by an MP from the Tories' own side. So, I'm sure that Dave Cameron is a really lovely guy - expect that the country doesn't need a lovely guy as Prime Minister. It needs someone who takes things a little more seriously. And I'm sure "honest" Dave would be hurt to hear that.
Vince Cable, now the Business Secretary, once said of former PM Gordon Brown that he had "gone from Stalin to Mr Bean".
Cameron's transformation is even worse - from a charming, self-confident managerial statesman to presiding over an omni-shambolic, heartless government. Cameron's "soft-touch" approach to government was meant to give ministers the freedom to reform and improve their ministries; to give the likes of the Education and Health minister, as well as the Work and Pensions minster, the freedom to reform. The result, not surprisingly, has been virtual chaos, as well as causing fury at the grass-roots.
Cameron, for all his supposed charm and self-confidence, does not govern; he presides. The Chancellor has no plan for the economy; he has a financial suicide note. The Health and Education ministers do not have a plan for public sector "reform", they have a plan for demolition. What makes it worse is that the government are too obdurate and close-minded to admit it. They would rather attack their critics, deny reality and blame it on someone else.
This is why this government is possibly the worst ever. Gordon Brown, for his mistakes, was at least never obviously heartless towards the fate of the country; he may have contributed to getting the UK into a financial mess, but he also had the brains and leadership to find a way out of it. Tony Blair may have been wrong on Iraq and his gusto over the War On Terror, but he still did many great things to improve the UK as a whole during his decade in power. John Major, although he presided over a failing and discredited government, (like President Gerald Ford) was not a fundamentally bad person. Margaret Thatcher, as a grocer's daughter, in spite of huge the polarisation and inequality she caused, was in some ways at least aware of the limits to what changes she could make to the UK, made those changes gradually, and seemed essentially down-to-earth. Jim Callaghan, her Labour predecessor, did his honourable best with a broken economy. Ted Heath, Thatcher's Conservative predecessor, although broken by the unions, tried to do what was practicable in the economy at the time, and was single-handedly responsible for the UK joining the EU. The likes of Wilson and Macmillan, Eden (undone by the Suez crisis), Churchill and Atlee (responsible for the welfare state we take for granted today), all gave something to improve the UK somehow.
What has this government done? Brought about a long-term slump in the British economy through sheer inflexibility; encouraged a generation of over-educated young people without long-term career prospects; set about dismantling the state sector that many people rely on; done nothing to give confidence to the private sector; and given just cause to make people think that the government is essentially corrupt, incompetent and dishonest.
A record to be proud of, no doubt.