I don't know whether it is the weather; I don't know if it is the government or the economy; I do know that I can hardly remember a time when the atmosphere in Britain has been so defeatist.
The terminal five fiasco perhaps brings home the fact that the UK tends to see its mistakes in apocalyptic terms: not "this was a pretty unacceptable failure of planning", but instead "we can't get anything right".
This self laceration that is often the hallmark of the whingeing poms seems to be growing worse- there seems a general sense of frustration and even of failure.
It would be politically convenient to blame this atmosphere on the government, and to be honest the malaise is at least partly the sense that the Labour government can not be held to account-that important things- like the Iraq war- have taken place despite the strongly expressed opposition of the majority of the British people. However I would also say that simply changing Brown for Blue and getting David Cameron as Prime Minister would lead to exactly same disillusion. The fact is that unless the political system imposes far greater direct accountability on our leaders- irrespective of party- and undertakes a radical reform, then the political disenchantment of most Brits will only grow.
However the sense of defeatism is also rooted in a great sense of economic insecurity. Fear is stalking the British economy: the fear that all of the prosperity that has been so slowly and painfully built up over the past decade or two rests upon the shallow foundations of a property bubble. So much of the wealth of the country is bound up in the housing market, that the prospect of an American style collapse sends chills down British spines. yet there is a fundamental difference between the US and the UK housing market: Americans can simply abandon their mortgage by returning the keys of their house. The British are liable for the debt, until it is repaid, irrespective of whether they have sold the house at a lower price or not.
As a result of this fundamental difference, the British lenders, paradoxically, have not created the sub prime asset class in their own market. The housing market is hugely leveraged, with average house prices now seven times average earnings, rather than the historic average of three times. However this increase is as much the result of the consideration of joint incomes when approving mortgage applications as anything else. Furthermore, anyone who has bought before the beginning of 2006 is sitting on a fairly substantial cushion of equity, even if prices actually fall, which, so far, they have not.
Yet in the face of the strain in the UK property market, we are seeing some extraordinary responses. Instead of a more prudent- yes, I know, a word devalued by misuse in politicians' mouths, but prudent is the right word- approach to personal finances, we are seeing a massive splurge on credit card spending. We are told that this simply shows how overextended the personal credit market is. I am a little sceptical about this. Much of the new debt is actually luxury expenditure- as though people are indulging in retail therapy, solely because they think that they are going to lose their credit cards. With that kind of fecklessness that is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The fear of the crisis making things far worse than they actually are.
There is a crisis in the United Kingdom. It is a crisis of poor education and astonishing irresponsibility. The skills shortage caused by the failure of education to establish basic literacy and numeracy was filled by immigration, but the return of or Polish plumbers will increase costs, but the fact is that the major problem we face seems to be - to use an old fashioned idea- a failure of our moral character. In the good times we seem to have had our personal responsibility eroded or eliminated, with actions seemingly having few consequences. It seems that some of use are no longer able to act responsibly at all.
We need to recapture the Dunkirk spirit- and take control of our own lives. Acting defeated is two thirds the way to being defeated. Our country faces serious problems, but these can be tackled, if we understand what we need to do. Leadership is not imposing ones will upon others, as Gordon brown or David Cameron would wish, but persuading others of the relevance and rightness of ones own point of view.
The sense of defeat is a failure of leadership. The consequences of this failure will end Mr. Brown's political career- eventually.