Economics lookahead, w/c 2 April

Featuring statistics, and lots of them.

Monday

  • The Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply, in conjunction with Markit, releases the Manufacturing PMI (Purchasing Managers Index), a monthly survey of the manufacturing sector. The index is a reliable predictor of growth or shrinkage in its sector.
  • CBI & PwC releases its quarterly financial services survey, a pretty thorough overview of the state of the financial services sector...
  • ... and Deloitte releases its nationwide survey of chief financial officers of major UK companies. Together, these two reports form a strong overview of the views of the major customers and providers in the financial sector.

Tuesday

  • British Chambers of Commerce releases its quarterly economic survey, which covers businesses across the UK.
  • Demos are hosting a talk by Gareth Thomas MP (Labour, Harrow West) on 'Social Finance and Early Action'.

Wednesday

  • The Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) is meeting, and will announce whether or not it will raise interest rates from 0.5 per cent on Thursday. Spoiler warning: It probably won't. Also covered will be the size of the quantitative easing programme, which currently stands at £325bn.
  • The European Central Bank will also decide whether to raise the Eurozone's interest rate from 1 per cent, and will annouce its decision at 3:30 UK time.
  • Finally, the British Retail Consortium releases its monthly shop price index, an alternate measure of inflation.

Thursday

  • The Bank of England announces its decision (see above).
  • National Institute of Economic & Social Research (NIESR) releases its monthly GDP estimates at 3:00pm, likely to include an updated version of this chart.
  • The Office of National Statistics will release the monthly industrial production statistics.
  • Halifax releases its house price index.

Friday

  • The American employment report is released.
  • It's Good Friday. Go home.
US employment report is released on Friday. Credit: Getty

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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