Recession deniers proved wrong

Our economics editor gives his verdict.

So the recession deniers were wrong again. As I predicted, rather than GDP growth for the first quarter of 2012 being revised up it was actually revised down by the ONS today from -0.2 per cent to -0.3 per cent. Output in the production industries was -0.4 per cent, manufacturing was flat while services grew by+0.1 per cent while construction was -4.8 per cent.  The fall in construction is very serious and, according to a report of the Bank of England's agents this week, "in large part due to declining work for the public sector".

Over the last six quarters that I have called the Osborne Collapse the economy has shrunk by -0.4 per cent.  He inherited an economy for Alastair Darling that grew by 3.1 per cent over the preceding four quarters.  Here's the chart.  Four of the last six were negative:

There is every prospect that the next quarter will be negative also even if the euro area doesn't implode.  If it does things will be much worse.

David Cameron in a speech on the economy on the 17 May 2012 said:

"Despite headwinds from the Eurozone, we are on track...We are moving in the right direction.

This is total balderdash. The economy is tanking and the coalition appears totally lost on what to do about it and they still don't have a growth plan. Saying they have a Plan A doesn't do it. We are now paying the price for them not having or implementing a plan B.

Today is the time to do three things:

  1. Cut VAT to 17.5 per cent.
  2. Cut National Insurance on anyone under 25 to zero for two years.
  3. Announce a program of £50bn of infrastructure spending on shovel ready projects. Local authorities can bid for the money for any project already through the planning process. The Monetary Policy Committee can fund it via Quantitative Easing.

It really is time for the cabinet to start working hard.

Photograph: Getty Images

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

Photo: Getty
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Emmanuel Macron can win - but so can Marine Le Pen

Macron is the frontrunner, but he remains vulnerable to an upset. 

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron is campaigning in the sixth largest French city aka London today. He’s feeling buoyed by polls showing not only that he is consolidating his second place but that the voters who have put him there are increasingly comfortable in their choice

But he’ll also be getting nervous that those same polls show Marine Le Pen increasing her second round performance a little against both him and François Fillon, the troubled centre-right candidate. Her slight increase, coming off the back of riots after the brutal arrest of a 22-year-old black man and Macron’s critical comments about the French empire in Algeria is a reminder of two things: firstly the potential for domestic crisis or terror attack to hand Le Pen a late and decisive advantage.  Secondly that Macron has not been doing politics all that long and the chance of a late implosion on his part cannot be ruled out either.

That many of his voters are former supporters of either Fillon or the Socialist Party “on holiday” means that he is vulnerable should Fillon discover a sense of shame – highly unlikely but not impossible either – and quit in favour of a centre-right candidate not mired in scandal. And if Benoît Hamon does a deal with Jean-Luc Mélenchon – slightly more likely that Fillon developing a sense of shame but still unlikely – then he could be shut out of the second round entirely.

What does that all mean? As far as Britain is concerned, a Macron or Fillon presidency means the same thing: a French government that will not be keen on an easy exit for the UK and one that is considerably less anti-Russian than François Hollande’s. But the real disruption may be in the PR battle as far as who gets the blame if Theresa May muffs Brexit is concerned.

As I’ve written before, the PM doesn’t like to feed the beast as far as the British news cycle and the press is concerned. She hasn’t cultivated many friends in the press and much of the traditional rightwing echo chamber, from the press to big business, is hostile to her. While Labour is led from its leftmost flank, that doesn’t much matter. But if in the blame game for Brexit, May is facing against an attractive, international centrist who shares much of the prejudices of May’s British critics, the hope that the blame for a bad deal will be placed solely on the shoulders of the EU27 may turn out to be a thin hope indeed.

Implausible? Don’t forget that people already think that Germany is led by a tough operator who gets what she wants, and think less of David Cameron for being regularly outmanoeuvered by her – at least, that’s how they see it. Don’t rule out difficulties for May if she is seen to be victim to the same thing from a resurgent France.

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