The week in review: The bell tolls for the coalition
There was good news for the coalition this week and plenty of it. You didn't notice, of course. No-one cares. But if we were at a different point in the electoral cycle it would have been more prominent.
Unemployment fell by 0.2% putting us ahead of the US. That comparison is politically vital, because Ed Balls relied so heavily on the example set by Barack Obama when the American economy was performing strongly. Senior Liberal Democrats like David Laws broke the cycle of recrimination and hatred which dominated last week with some newfound enthusiasm for the coalition. Crime continued to fall despite the recession. Finally, and most importantly, something important was happening to Britain's export streams. A major boost to developing economies in Asia and Latin America meant that for the first time we were sending more goods to countries outside the EU than inside the EU – a key coalition goal.
Such is the dire state of the coalition's popularity that no-one noticed, let alone commented, on any of this. Instead, we mocked David Cameron and Nick Clegg for the fact they looked like they could barely stand each other during a lethargic coalition relaunch. The pair have an uncanny ability to prompt less faith in the government every relaunch they do. This event saw them unveil lots more rail spending – in two years time. It was deflating and did nothing to counter the idea they were running out of steam.
There was more bad news to come. Polls showed a startling phenomenon: Tory voters were growing less likely to go to the polls. This reversal of electoral truisms was not much commented on, but it will have made faces go white at Tory HQ. The discipline of their voters is one of the key factors which keeps the Tories competing for Downing Street.
Next, Cameron gave a 'temple of doom' interview to the Telegraph in which he decided to run on an austerity-forever ticket. It was as dour an interview as a prime minister has given since the Germans were toying with invading.
Then something predictable and dreadful happened: The IMF basically lost faith in George Osborne. Its report into UK economic performance pretty much demanded he adopt a Plan B and warned of long-term consequences if he didn't. Worst of all, they predicted Osborne was about to miss one of his golden rules – the very same thing for which he used to attack Gordon Brown. That could lose the UK its credit rating, increase interest rates and generally destroy the coalition's entire reason for existing.
Anyone who wanted a break from the coalition's shambles only needed to look to the Olympics, which was being met with Londoners' usual cheery optimism. G4S boss Nick Buckles was torn apart by the home affairs department in a single-handed exhibition of quite how mediocre a mind can be while still reaching the upper echelons of corporate culture. Activists said the Games supported discrimination, MPs savaged the Home Office and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport for not keeping track of things, Seb Coe tried to ban people wearing Pepsi T-shirts from entering the Games and ministers decided to step back from the abyss by not using VIP lanes.
Basically, it would be a truly British Olympics: defined by scandal, executed competently, resented throughout.