Bagehot deconstructs it:
British voters are duly punishing their politicians, who seem impotent in the face of global economic storms. One leading pollster calls the net approval ratings of Britain’s three big party leaders an “ugliness contest”, with the Conservative prime minister David Cameron on minus 18, Labour’s Ed Miliband on minus 27 and—exploring such depths of public disdain that he will soon need his own bathysphere—the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg on minus 53…
This columnist came to Britain after 12 years in the new world and Europe. From afar, the British seemed to have found a distinctive way of handling globalisation: a mid-Atlantic compact based on greater individualism and tolerance of competition than the French, say, balanced with a more generous welfare safety net than might be found in America. To simplify, Britain looked American at the top and European at the bottom, and it seemed to work. Bagehot thinks that compact is intact, if fragile…
If the British are obsessed with society’s unfairness, that is because they want it fixed—a finer ambition than clinging, fatalistically and cynically, to a crumbling status quo. Bagehot bids farewell to an unhappy country. But it is an unhappiness that looks to the future and wants to improve it.
Here's hoping. But the Brits, so unlike Americans, also have a stoic capacity to embrace the suck. And so the Coalition government, if you add the Lib Dems to the Tories, still gets an approval rate of around 45 percent – not far from Obama's. And the opposition is still not that strong – with only 42 percent support for Labour.
By the way, the lyrics to the Noel Coward song above can be found in full here. But a taste:
There are bad times just around the corner,
There are dark clouds hurtling through the sky
And it's no use whining
About a silver lining
For we KNOW from experience that they won't roll by,
With a scowl and a frown
We'll keep our sprits down
And prepare for depression and doom and dread,
We're going to unpack our troubles from our old kit bag
And wait until we drop down dead.
Now that's the spirit.