Friday, 31 December 2010

Are Britons suffering from Stockholm syndrome over the coalition government?

Peter Wilby in the New Statesman makes an interesting point:
Support for David Cameron and the coalition government remains surprisingly high. With thousands expecting to lose their jobs, incomes stagnant, inflation rising and public services due for drastic cuts, you would expect the government to be wildly unpopular. Yet the latest Guardian/ICM poll shows that 43 per cent think the coalition is a good thing.

The explanation, I suspect, is that the country is suffering from a collective form of Stockholm syndrome, the name given to the condition of hostages who develop positive feelings towards their captors. When captors plainly are capable of killing hostages but do not do so, the latter come to believe that such restraint shows admirable kindness and humanity.

The government has shown that it is capable of inflicting great pain in public spending. But several cuts - for example, to school sports and free books for under-12s - are already being withdrawn (partially, at least, in the case of the school books). I suspect that the same will happen with plans by Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, to turn the NHS upside down by putting spending decisions into GPs' hands. Critics predict the destruction of our most treasured national institution. But, the Sunday Times reports, whispers are circulating that Lansley and his scheme will be dropped within months, causing a nationwide sigh of relief and a warm glow of gratitude towards Cameron. As such examples accumulate over the next few years, we shall - or so the coalition hopes - applaud our captors for their compassion, flexibility and willingness to listen.

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