THE closer that the general election gets, the greater the temptation for supporters of the Labour Party to give the government the benefit of the doubt and to see a plethora of silver linings behind the grey clouds of new Labour policies.
The reasoning behind such an approach is that criticism of the government will only help Michael Howard's electoral chances.
The problem with this approach is that what is said in the run-up to an election can vary wildly from the consistent views held by trade unions and other campaigning bodies on key issues.
For example, all unions have been hostile to government support for privatisation and to its fixation with forcing the public sector to act as a milch cow for privateers.
Labour Party conference decided, against leadership advice, to call on the government a couple of years ago to initiate an inquiry into the record of private finance initiatives as the first step to urging an end to these wasteful mechanisms.
The government ignored this conference resolution for one simple reason.
That reason is that it knows that the cheapest and most reliable way of modernising the public services is through Treasury loans, but new Labour is committed to the neoliberal goal of cutting state-financed capital projects in line with the European Union's Maastricht Treaty guidelines on public indebtedness.
As a result, state-financed projects from the London Underground to new hospitals, schools, prisons, libraries and offices are handed over to the private sector so that their cost is enhanced by guaranteed dividends to parasitic shareholders.
Any welcome for government spending levels on public services must be tempered with criticism of the practice of subcontracting finance and management to profit-hungry private companies.
Ever since Labour was elected in 1997, pensioners' organisations, supported by the trade union movement, have insisted that promises made in opposition should be honoured.
Principal among them is that the link between average earnings and the state pension, which was broken by Margaret Thatcher, should be restored.
But the Chancellor prefers to tinker with a number of fringe benefits, together with reliance on hated means-tested schemes, rather than carry out this essential act of social justice.
If he did, he would be popular with Britain's pensioners, but would incur the wrath of the finance industry, which has a record of mis-selling, incompetence, greed and insensitivity.
He chooses to suck up to the insurance industry, which is outsourcing jobs by the thousand to low-wage economies.
Similar points could be made over childcare, where publicly financed nurseries and other facilities are superseded by expensive, private-sector alternatives in line with government thinking.
To voice these uncomfortable facts is not to wish for Mr Howard in Downing Street.
But it highlights the need for concerted struggle to change government priorities, failing which there will be little stomach among Labour supporters to campaign for Labour at the general election.