For a week of startling Government incompetence to end up with the Opposition being firmly trounced in a by-election by a self-publicising narcissist demonstrates quite how lucky the Bullingdon Hamster has been. We have Ministers advising people to turn their homes and garages into petrol bombs, and a cash-for-access scandal that would make My Little Tony blush, and an economy that looks as though it's going to stumble into a depression in the next six months. We have the prospect of a drought that will rival 1976, and no credible programme to deal with the infrastructure issues that throws up, and we have unpopular changes to the NHS, education system and almost anything that can be screwed for Tory crony profit.
The handling of a potential tanker drivers' strike demonstrates the ineptitude and credulity that the Tories and their tabloid dung-merchants are noted for. That 2,000 drivers vote for strike action over health and safety and training standards, when they spend 56 hours a week in the front of an explosive cargo, manoeuvring around the various Clarksonian fruit-cakes whose driving style appears to be predicated on reducing their (and others') life expectancies, rather than pay, should set alarm bells ringing. They are similarly affected by outsourcing and cost-cutting as many public-sector employees, and in some ways the response is entirely sensible - especially given the reality that it has taken a threat of strikes to get the employers even to think about talking to the trade union.
So we get Francis Maude advising that people store petrol in a way calculated to increase the risk of domestic fires, and Cameron totally incapable of calming people down. Instead the Tories use it to bash Labour's receipt of funds from the unions, neglecting to remember that union members can opt in and out of their political funds and many don't support the Labour party - but when did we last see a shareholder ballot about corporate donations to the Tories? Mister Ed would have been better off telling the Tories to "calm down dear, it's only a ballot" and reminding them that a strike had not been called.
Galloway's victory in Bradford West is symbolic of the way in which the Coalition has strangled political differentiation. Labour triangulate, vacillating somewhere around what they judge to be the "centre" - and the Liberals are implicated in government and can no longer challenge the status quo. Hardly surprising, therefore, that there are opportunities for others to get in on the act - and not entirely unsatisfactory as it points to the democratic deficit further reinforced by the lack of political reform in England. It's similar in some ways to the rise of the SNP, but much more farcical, since the SNP have shown themselves to be consummate operators and credible governors, which nobody would ever be able to accuse Galloway of achieving.
So this has distracted attention from the government, and at an unfortunate time. Maude's cretinous comments and potential consequential impacts should have been subject to much more scrutiny - at the same time as the cash-for-access scandals miring the Tories, Murdoch's puppetry with Michael Gove and the complete bankruptcy of macroeconomic policy becomes clear. My view remains that the Budget could have been worse, but only within the context of not digging any faster into the hole in which the current and previous administrations have landed us.