LONDON Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday that his government must improve its performance after opponents branded ministers shambolic for a series of blunders that crowned the worst month yet of his two-year premiership.
Lampooned by the media as a government that cannot cope with the detail of running Britain, Cameron's approval rating fell this month to the lowest level since his coalition government came to power in May 2010.
Cameron said that ministers had to make difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions to reduce the budget deficit which peaked at 11 percent of gross domestic product in 2009-2010, the last year of the Labour government.
But he admitted the government should do better after days of explaining oddities such as the intricacies of taxation on pies or why ministers botched an attempt to extradite a radical Muslim cleric, Abu Qatada.
"I want us to do better. It's been a difficult month - governments have difficult months," Cameron told BBC radio. "I want us to raise our game and do better but the vision and the long term is what matters."
"But I think what really matters is keeping your eye on the long term and the big decisions that really matter and the picture, and that's that this government came together to dig this country out of the huge economic mess it was in," he added.
Cameron has one of the most difficult balancing acts in recent British history: he must prevent his own party from splitting and keep the support of his Liberal Democrat coalition partners while preparing for the 2015 general election.
Cameron dismissed criticism from the media that he is not giving the job enough attention, that he is spending too much time with his family or that he is even a little lazy.
"It certainly doesn't feel like that ... It is extremely hard work. I work very, very hard at it," said Cameron, who added that having a balanced family life helped him make considered decisions.
Supporters of Cameron are hoping that the London mayoral election will hand victory to Conservative candidate Boris Johnson and that the opposition Labour party will do badly in local elections on the same day.
They argue that a poor result for Labour would shift the focus back towards their opponents after at least four weeks of criticism for ministers.
Opponents say the problem is not just one of presentation but that ministers have repeatedly failed to do their jobs properly and that Cameron has not led the government with enough authority.
(Reporting by Mohammed Abbas; Editing by Alison Williams)
Our top photos from the past week.