The growth-deniers' game is up. Just look at the numbers.

Contrary to the coalition government's spin, the economy was recovering nicely under the last Labour

Contrary to the coalition government's spin, the economy was recovering nicely under the last Labour government.{C}

Today is the day to report back on the battle between the coalition and the opposition over who has been right on the economy. Keynes versus Hayek; growth-deniers versus deficit-deniers (supposedly like me). The jury has now reached its verdict and the coalition is guilty as charged -- they have destroyed growth and pushed the UK into a recession worse than we saw in the 1930s. Contrary to the coalition government's spin, the economy was recovering nicely under the last Labour government.

Yesterday, the European Commission said Britain's economy will grow by just 0.7 per cent this year, 0.6 per cent in 2012 and 1.5 per cent in 2013. The figures are miles below the 1.7 per cent, 2.5 per cent and 2.9 per cent growth forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) in March. It is broadly consistent with the forecasts of the CBI and NIESR. Given that we have already had growth of 1 per cent in the first three quarters of the year, this suggests that the Commission is expecting negative growth of 0.3 per cent in Q4 and/or the earlier quarters to be revised down. The OECD, the IMF and the EU have now given up on George.

The recession can be split into four parts. First, the "down" part which started in the second quarter of 2008 and went on for a total of five consecutive quarters of negative growth, during which output fell by an enormous 7.4 per cent. Second, the "up" part, which also lasted five quarters (from Q3 2009 to Q3 2010) when under Alistar Darling and Gordon Brown, growth increased by 2.8 per cent. Then, the "flatline" phase under George Osborne, which is also fifteen months long (from Q4 2010 to Q4 2011) with growth of 0.2 per cent, assuming we use the EU's estimates. Osborne destroyed Darling's recovery. Then, finally, the "stagnation" phase, lasting 24 months (from Q1 2012 to Q4 2013) with growth of 2.1 per cent over two years, or an average of just over 1 per cent.

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So by the end of 2013, only 5.6 per cent of the 7.4 per cent drop in output will have been restored. This is worse than the 1930-1934 double-dip recession, which had only a slightly bigger output drop but was over in 48 months. By the end of 2013, this will number 69 months and counting. It is no good blaming the eurozone, old chap. This means that Osborne will have caused the longest-lasting downturn for at least a century, which because of his incompetence has now turned into a depression of epic proportions. Acording to the EU Commission's forecasts, it will take Slasher Osborne 39 months to achieve the same growth of 2.8 per cent as Alistair Darling's policies achieved in fifteen months. Spin your way out of that one, Mr Fallon. If the problems were all inherited from Labour, how come they were able to grow the economy twice as fast as the coalition has? Blaming the eurozone won't wash.

Judging by Vince Cable's comments yesterday, it looks increasingly unlikely that the coalition has much of a plan B. The Autumn Statement is due at the end of the month, but he appeared to rule out tax cuts or a new burst in spending. Infrastructure projects are fine, but will take a long time to have an effect, as will credit easing. That old Tory chestnut of removing regulation and red-tape, as ever, is likely to do diddly squat. The growth-deniers' game is up. Just look at the numbers.

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

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Is there such a thing as responsible betting?

Punters are encouraged to bet responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly.

I try not to watch the commercials between matches, or the studio discussions, or anything really, before or after, except for the match itself. And yet there is one person I never manage to escape properly – Ray Winstone. His cracked face, his mesmerising voice, his endlessly repeated spiel follow me across the room as I escape for the lav, the kitchen, the drinks cupboard.

I’m not sure which betting company he is shouting about, there are just so many of them, offering incredible odds and supposedly free bets. In the past six years, since the laws changed, TV betting adverts have increased by 600 per cent, all offering amazingly simple ways to lose money with just one tap on a smartphone.

The one I hate is the ad for BetVictor. The man who has been fronting it, appearing at windows or on roofs, who I assume is Victor, is just so slimy and horrible.

Betting firms are the ultimate football parasites, second in wealth only to kit manufacturers. They have perfected the capitalist’s art of using OPM (Other People’s Money). They’re not directly involved in football – say, in training or managing – yet they make millions off the back of its popularity. Many of the firms are based offshore in Gibraltar.

Football betting is not new. In the Fifties, my job every week at five o’clock was to sit beside my father’s bed, where he lay paralysed with MS, and write down the football results as they were read out on Sports Report. I had not to breathe, make silly remarks or guess the score. By the inflection in the announcer’s voice you could tell if it was an away win.

Earlier in the week I had filled in his Treble Chance on the Littlewoods pools. The “treble” part was because you had three chances: three points if the game you picked was a score draw, two for a goalless draw and one point for a home or away win. You chose eight games and had to reach 24 points, or as near as possible, then you were in the money.

“Not a damn sausage,” my father would say every week, once I’d marked and handed him back his predictions. He never did win a sausage.

Football pools began in the 1920s, the main ones being Littlewoods and Vernons, both based in Liverpool. They gave employment to thousands of bright young women who checked the results and sang in company choirs in their spare time. Each firm spent millions on advertising. In 1935, Littlewoods flew an aeroplane over London with a banner saying: Littlewoods Above All!

Postwar, they blossomed again, taking in £50m a year. The nation stopped at five on a Saturday to hear the scores, whether they were interested in football or not, hoping to get rich. BBC Sports Report began in 1948 with John Webster reading the results. James Alexander Gordon took over in 1974 – a voice soon familiar throughout the land.

These past few decades, football pools have been left behind, old-fashioned, low-tech, replaced by online betting using smartphones. The betting industry has totally rebooted itself. You can bet while the match is still on, trying to predict who will get the next goal, the next corner, the next throw-in. I made the last one up, but in theory you can bet instantly, on anything, at any time.

The soft sell is interesting. With the old football pools, we knew it was a remote flutter, hoping to make some money. Today the ads imply that betting on football somehow enhances the experience, adds to the enjoyment, involves you in the game itself, hence they show lads all together, drinking and laughing and putting on bets.

At the same time, punters are encouraged to do it responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly. Responsibly and respect are now two of the most meaningless words in the football language. People have been gambling, in some form, since the beginning, watching two raindrops drip down inside the cave, lying around in Roman bathhouses playing games. All they’ve done is to change the technology. You have to respect that.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war