Whoever wins the British general election will enjoy a fleeting honeymoon. At the top of the to-do list: restoring the still-fragile economy while convincing investors that the government is serious about cracking down on its burgeoning budget deficit.
That task has been made all the more pressing by the turmoil in Greece, where harsh austerity measures have sparked strikes and protests that turned violent Wednesday, leaving three people dead in a firebomb attack on a Greek bank.
The parallels with Greece shouldn't be overdrawn.
As Bank of England Gov. Mervyn King has stressed, the maturity structure of U.K. public debt is much longer than that of other economies—almost twice that of any other country, in fact.
While international ratings agencies have threatened to cut the U.K.'s triple-A credit rating if the next government doesn't take aggressive steps to put its finances on a sustainable path, the top political parties have prepared the public for major belt-tightening.
But, whether he said it or not, Gov. King's reported comment that the winning party will be out of power for a generation because of the austerity measures does strike a chord.
"To take the ax to public spending on the scale required would be tough in normal times, but it is even harder now because politicians are so universally distrusted," said Jonathan Hopkins, senior lecturer in comparative politics at the London School of Economics.