The energy, enthusiasm and unity of purpose of the early days of a new government all but disappear, replaced by increasing examples of arrogance and complacency as politicians start taking voters for granted.
There have been signs of this in Scotland for a while, with problems caused by the SNP’s at-times lackadaisical attitude towards the everyday business of government failing to create the usual backlash at the polls, largely because of the ideological commitment of its base to independence. However the ongoing turmoil within the Conservatives has taken this phenomenon to a new level.
When Boris Johnson flew home from a Caribbean holiday to gauge support for his comeback as Prime Minister, some pointed out that the Westminster parliament was sitting and he should have been doing the job he is paid by the taxpayer to do: representing his constituents. And the people of West Sussex will question why their MP, Matt Hancock, thinks he can go absent without their leave to take part in a reality TV show.
There is also the unedifying row over the foul language used by government minister Gavin Williamson in texts sent to the then Tory chief whip, Wendy Morton, in which he complained he and other MPs were being excluded from Queen Elizabeth’s funeral because they were out of favour with Liz Truss, then Prime Minister. It is hard to imagine the mindset of someone who thinks this is an appropriate way to question their absence from such a sombre occasion. But it is just one of several signs that Conservative MPs have become so comfortable in power that they regard internal party squabbles as being all important.
Rishi Sunak, who found himself upstaged by Johnson at the COP27 summit yesterday, will probably try to hang on for as long as possible before calling the next general election, hoping he can instil a new sense of discipline and work ethic. However, if Sunak fails to seek a new mandate in a spring election – as he should – the Conservatives may come to regret the next two years in government as an impression of arrogance, laziness, self-obsessed bickering, and uncaring incompetence is seared into voters’ minds.