Margaret Thatcher, looking back at the period in May 1979 when she was preparing to terminate long years of Labour rule, observed that Jim Callaghan’s government had lost the public's, and parliament's, confidence. Socialists everywhere, she added pointedly, had run out of steam and ideas.

Tony Blair, looking back at 1997, when he was prepared to end long years of Conservative rule under Mrs Thatcher and John Major, reflected that he had wanted to offer a progressive alternative to a Tory government that had gone off the rails. David Cameron, taking over in 2010, later wrote that Britain had endured a terrible recession and needed a stable and decisive government.

There has for several years been a sense that the current administration has, like the predecessors cited above, been in power for too long. Its achievements, and there have been some, have been overshadowed by a steady pile-up of misfortunes and mis-steps, caused by complacency, ineptitude and fatigue.

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Even many Conservative supporters are asking why 13 years of uninterrupted Tory rule has left the country in a worst state than it was in 2010. A recent poll indicated that 58 per cent of people who voted for Boris Johnston in 2019 agreed with the statement that Britain is indeed broken, , not least because the cost-of-living crisis has impoverished huge numbers of voters and their families.

The signs are everywhere. NHS waiting-lists are longer than they were before the pandemic. Britain’s economic performance can charitably be described as sluggish,with the potential for growth being undermined by failure to cut red tape or to reduce the size of the state.

Councils, hamstrung by austerity policies put into place under the coalition, are experiencing financial difficulties, as evidenced by Birmingham’s plight. Sewage is flowing into rivers and onto beaches. The UK's air traffic control system was felled by what its boss acknowledges was a 'one in 15 million error'. The government has struggled to deal adequately with the large numbers of people who risk their lives by arriving in the UK in small boats. The country is still trying to cope with the impact of the decision to secede from the EU. Britain is now spending £26bn each year on incapacity welfare. The levelling-up agenda has run aground.

A high-level enquiry is now looking at how the terror suspect, Daniel Abed Khalife, was able to escape from the category B prison, HMP Wandsworth, this week. Labour’s point was well-made: the government, it said, must urgently explain why it can’t do the basic job of keeping potentially dangerous criminals locked up.

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And all of this at a time when the tax burden in Britain is on the verge of reaching its highest level since the Second World War. Where have our taxes gone? Just as importantly, where is the sense of direction and purpose? The impression grows that we are governed by millionaires who are out of touch with the country.

Compounding all of this is the attitude of certain government ministers. Education Secretary Gillian Keegan’s unguarded, ‘hot-mic’ statement that she deserved more credit for her response to the schools-roof crisis has led many in her own party to accuse her of arrogance and complacency. Nadine Dorries's self-regarding behaviour, too, betrayed a certain contempt for the electorate.

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In Scotland, we are also witnessing the effect of a government that has been in power for many years. Though Humza Yousaf and his predecessor, Nicola Sturgeon, can with some justification blame Westminster for funding issues, the SNP has not covered itself with glory in its performance in such key areas as NHS waiting lists and education – and, of course, ferry procurement.

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The reflections of Mrs Thatcher, Blair and Cameron are all relevant to the current situation. The Right seems to have run out of steam and ideas. Britain needs stable and decisive government, and a progressive alternative to a Tory administration that has gone off the rails.

As we have previously observed, Keir Starmer has done a considerable job in purging the Labour Party of far-left elements and ruinous ambitions and in making Labour much more electable than it was under Jeremy Corbyn.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has ruled out a wealth tax and has said she will not raise income tax or capital gains tax. But despite taxes currently being so high, it seems inevitable that at some point a Labour government piloted by Starmer, Reeves and Angela Rayner will have to consider raising them if they are serious about fixing all the many things that are wrong with Britain. To an extent, as has been pointed out, Labour is understandably keen to avoid the alleged Labour 'tax bombshell' that the Tories exploited to deadly effect at the 1992 election. But pinning hopes on substantial growth leading to increased revenues is a longer-term notion.

With Sunak seeking to minimise the extent of what is surely a looming defeat for the Conservatives, Labour has lots of time in which to promote detailed, costed policies that will win over a weary, sceptical electorate. Though the next election is still some way off, we would like to see Labour putting more daylight between them and the increasingly diminished and beleaguered Conservatives.