Labour won't benefit from economic growth

Voters unlikely to credit Brown for recovery

It has just been confirmed that Britain finally emerged from the recession in the last three months of 2009, but only just. Growth was a paltry 0.1 per cent (economists had forecast 0.4 per cent), a figure so low that after adjustments, the economy could actually still be in recession.

Meanwhile, economists such as our own David Blanchflower warn of a double-dip recession, with VAT's return to 17.5 per cent hindering growth in the first quarter of this year.

After today's figures, Labour can persuasively argue that we'd still be in recession now if it hadn't been for the government's Keynesian spending boost. But even if growth picks up later in the year (and it's a big if) the government is unlikely to receive much credit. As I've noted before, while voters may blame governments for economic failure, they rarely reward them for recovery.

This intuition appeared to be confirmed by a Channel 4/ICM poll published last night. Only 20 per cent of voters said the government was responsible for helping the economy recover. And while 12 per cent said the end of the recession would make them more likely to vote Labour, 10 per cent said it would make them less likely to do so.

This may not be as counter-intuitive as it seems. In 1945 voters elected Clement Attlee instead of Winston Churchill despite the latter's wartime feats. Similarly, they may conclude that Gordon Brown, having seen Britain through the economic storm, has no useful role left to play.

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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What happened when a couple accidentally recorded two hours of their life

The cassette tape threw Dan and Fiona into a terrible panic.

If the Transformers series of movies (Transformers; Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen; Transformers: Dark of the Moon; Transformers: Age of Extinction; and Transformers: the Last Knight) teach us anything, it is that you think your life is going along just fine but in a moment, with a single mistake or incident, it can be derailed and you never know from what direction the threat will come. Shia LaBeouf, for example, thinks everything is completely OK in his world – then he discovers his car is a shape-shifting alien.

I once knew a couple called Dan and Fiona who, on an evening in the early 1980s, accidentally recorded two hours of their life. Fiona was an English teacher (in fact we’d met at teacher-training college) and she wished to make a recording of a play that was being broadcast on Radio 4 about an anorexic teenager living on a council estate in Belfast. A lot of the dramas at that time were about anorexic teenagers living on council estates in Belfast, or something very similar – sometimes they had cancer.

Fiona planned to get her class to listen to the play and then they would have a discussion about its themes. In that pre-internet age when there was no iPlayer, the only practical way to hear something after the time it had been transmitted was to record the programme onto a cassette tape.

So Fiona got out their boom box (a portable Sony stereo player), loaded in a C120 tape, switched on the radio part of the machine, tuned it to Radio 4, pushed the record button when the play began, and fastidiously turned the tape over after 60 minutes.

But instead of pushing the button that would have taped the play, she had actually pushed the button that activated the built-in microphone, and the machine captured, not the radio drama, but the sound of 120 minutes of her and Dan’s home life, which consisted solely of: “Want a cup of tea?” “No thanks.” And a muffled fart while she was out of the room. That was all. That was it.

The two of them had, until that moment, thought their life together was perfectly happy, but the tape proved them conclusively wrong. No couple who spent their evenings in such torpidity could possibly be happy. Theirs was clearly a life of grinding tedium.

The evidence of the cassette tape threw Dan and Fiona into a terrible panic: the idea of spending any more of their evenings in such bored silence was intolerable. They feared they might have to split up. Except they didn’t want to.

But what could they do to make their lives more exciting? Should they begin conducting sordid affairs in sleazy nightclubs? Maybe they could take up arcane hobbies such as musketry, baking terrible cakes and entering them in competitions, or building models of Victorian prisons out of balsa wood? Might they become active in some kind of extremist politics?

All that sounded like a tremendous amount of effort. In the end they got themselves a cat and talked about that instead. 

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder