Research on the politics of competence by Dr Will Jennings (PAIR) and Dr Jane Green (University of Manchester) is mentioned in an article by Polly Toynbee in The Guardian today. Toynbee expresses surprise at the unexpected prevalence of policy failures and disasters under the Coalition Government. Something few commentators would have anticipated in May 2010, but encapsulated in the ‘omnishambles’ budget of 2012, which combined PR disasters with screeching policy U-turns.
In the Economic and Social Research Council’s annual report – Britain in 2013 – the work of Green and Jennings shows how the competence of a government trumps everything else in public opinion. The public’s cumulative view spreads across all issues, one major failure dragging everything with it. The competence ratings of all governments decline over time, but this one squanders it at break-neck speed.
Whether or not the respective partners of the Coalition can reverse their political fortunes in time for the next election is too early to tell, but it is increasingly clear that perceived competence matters.