This is the weakest possible recovery

Many forecasters now expect growth to be just 1.3 per cent in 2011, down from the original OBR forec

At the beginning of the week, the CBI lowered its UK forecast for 2012 from 1.7 per cent to 1.3 per cent and continues to expect a lacklustre 2.2 per cent in 2012, which contrasts with the Office for Budget Responsibility's (OBR) current forecast of 1.7 per cent (already down from the 2.6 per cent it forecast before the June 2010 Budget). The CBI's downgrade is not surprising, given the poor results from the CBI Industrial Trends Survey, which found for the first time in two years that optimism regarding the general business situation fell among UK manufacturers.

Then the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) lowered its growth forecast to 1.3 per cent in 2011 and 2.0 per cent in 2012, with unemployment forecast to rise from 7.9 per cent in 2011 to 8.3 per cent in 2012. NIESR's latest forecast of growth of 1.3 per cent in 2011 is half the rate of growth (of 2.6 per cent) forecast by the OBR in June 2010, before George Osborne's first Budget. NIESR said: "[T]he public finances will not improve as quickly as the OBR expects. Weaker growth and, in particular, weak consumer spending, in the short term, are behind this. Public-sector borrowing will shrink by only 1 per cent of GDP in 2011-2012. The Chancellor will miss his primary target of balancing the cyclically adjusted current Budget by 2015-2016 by around 1 per cent of GDP. The Chancellor has time to address this and further consolidation should not be introduced now. Indeed, it remains our view that in the short-term fiscal policy is too tight and a modest loosening would improve prospects for output and employment with little or no negative effect on fiscal credibility."

Then there was that horrid CIPS/PMI reading for manufacturing, which signalled contraction in the sector for first time in two years in July, as new orders declined at the fastest rate since May 2009. The weaker performance of the sector impacted on the labour market, as manufacturers lowered employment for the first time in 16 months. At 49.1 in July, down from a revised 51.4 in June, the survey posted its weakest reading since June 2009. David Noble at the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply argued: "Alarm bells are ringing or the UK manufacturing sector, which has seen conditions deteriorate rapidly since the start of the year."

At his Mansion House speech on 15 June 2011, Slasher claimed, "The British economy is recovering. Output is growing . . . Stability has returned. Britain is on the mend." It doesn't exactly look that way does it? A couple of months turns out to be a really long time in economics.

David Blanchflower is economics editor of the New Statesman and professor of economics at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire

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Harriet Harman warns that the Brexit debate has been dominated by men

The former deputy leader hit out at the marginalisation of women's voices in the EU referendum campaign.

The EU referendum campaign has been dominated by men, Labour’s former deputy leader Harriet Harman warns today. The veteran MP, who was acting Labour leader between May and September last year, said that the absence of female voices in the debate has meant that arguments about the ramifications of Brexit for British women have not been heard.

Harman has written to Sharon White, the Chief of Executive of Ofcom, expressing her “serious concern that the referendum campaign has to date been dominated by men.” She says: “Half the population of this country are women and our membership of the EU is important to women’s lives. Yet men are – as usual – pushing women out.”

Research by Labour has revealed that since the start of this year, just 10 women politicians have appeared on the BBC’s Today programme to discuss the referendum, compared to 48 men. On BBC Breakfast over the same time period, there have been 12 male politicians interviewed on the subject compared to only 2 women. On ITV’s Good Morning Britain, 18 men and 6 women have talked about the referendum.

In her letter, Harman says that the dearth of women “fails to reflect the breadth of voices involved with the campaign and as a consequence, a narrow range [of] issues ends up being discussed, leaving many women feeling shut out of the national debate.”

Harman calls on Ofcom “to do what it can amongst broadcasters to help ensure women are properly represented on broadcast media and that serious issues affecting female voters are given adequate media coverage.” 

She says: "women are being excluded and the debate narrowed.  The broadcasters have to keep a balance between those who want remain and those who want to leave. They should have a balance between men and women." 

A report published by Loughborough University yesterday found that women have been “significantly marginalised” in reporting of the referendum, with just 16 per cent of TV appearances on the subject being by women. Additionally, none of the ten individuals who have received the most press coverage on the topic is a woman.

Harman's intervention comes amidst increasing concerns that many if not all of the new “metro mayors” elected from next year will be men. Despite Greater Manchester having an equal number of male and female Labour MPs, the current candidates for the Labour nomination for the new Manchester mayoralty are all men. Luciana Berger, the Shadow Minister for mental health, is reportedly considering running to be Labour’s candidate for mayor of the Liverpool city region, but will face strong competition from incumbent mayor Joe Anderson and fellow MP Steve Rotheram.

Last week, Harriet Harman tweeted her hope that some of the new mayors would be women.  

Henry Zeffman writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2015.