United Kingdom: Olympics over, now back to work
13 August 2012
As the UK goes back to work after its two-week holiday soaking up a little international kudos, Prime Minister David Cameron could well be wishing a little Olympic spirit was enough to solve the nation’s problems, starting with the economy, believes columnist Ian Birrell.
Well, that was some party, wasn't it? A fabulous fortnight in which Britain proved it was still a global player, shattering the defeatist stereotypes that have so dominated public discourse in recent years and showing off the real face of our rainbow nation to the world.
Now comes the hangover. As memories of the epic exploits of Mo, Bradley and Jess fade into the distance, we must reluctantly return to the painful reality of a country engulfed in economic gloom, battered by the euro crisis and stuck in the quicksand of stultifying stagnation.
Few will feel the pain more than David Cameron, with the cracks in his Coalition growing deeper, his critics more vocal and his party marooned behind Labour in the polls. He is not helped by the idiocy of those supposedly on his own side, whether Liberal Democrats determined to prove coalition politics do not work in Britain or right-wingers doing their best to return the Tories to the impotence of Opposition.
The key issue for voters is the economy, with Britons struggling in the face of rising living costs and job insecurity. This year has seen the Tory modernisation project stymied first by the mishandled health reforms, undermining the idea that the party could be trusted with public services, and then by the startlingly inept Budget, destroying the idea of everyone being in the mire together by foolishly cutting taxes for the super-rich.
The words "Big Society" [a 2010 Conservative Party initiative to empower people] produce nervous giggles in government circles these days. But Mr Cameron must be brave if he wants to be in Downing Street when the Olympic Games reappear in Rio.
The odds are against this – so far better to govern as though each day is the last, determined to make deep changes for the better, rather than rely on the kind of shallow calculations that corroded faith in his Government.