The Tories’ bogus US growth comparison

Why the right is wrong to boast that Britain grew more than the United States.

The Tories have responded to today's US growth figures by proudly pointing out that the UK economy grew more than the US (0.5 per cent vs. 0.4 per cent) in the first quarter of this year.

But this is an entirely bogus comparison for one obvious reason.

While the British economy shrank by 0.5 per cent in the previous quarter, the US economy grew by 0.8 per cent. Thus, the US experienced real growth in Q1, while the UK merely recovered the lost output of the previous quarter (although I'm being too kind to George Osborne, as I'll explain below).

Thanks to Labour's fiscal stimulus and the Bank of England's ultra-loose monetary policy, the UK economy grew at a faster rate (1.8 per cent) over Q2 and Q3 2010 than the US economy (1.1 per cent). But the coalition's austerity measures (most obviously the reckless VAT rise) and the resultant collapse in consumer confidence mean that the UK economy has flatlined over the past six months while the US economy has expanded by 1.2 per cent.

For the government to accuse Ed Balls of "hysteria" when he points out as much is merely another sign that they have lost the argument.

Incidentally, I, like most people, understated how bad the Q1 figures were on Wednesday. It is not accurate to say that the economy has recovered all of the output that it lost in Q4. As Sunder Katwala points out, "a 0.5 per cent increase on the reduced figure doesn't make up for the 0.5 per cent fall from from a higher base". For once, I was too soft on Osborne.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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It's Gary Lineker 1, the Sun 0

The football hero has found himself at the heart of a Twitter storm over the refugee children debate.

The Mole wonders what sort of topsy-turvy universe we now live in where Gary Lineker is suddenly being called a “political activist” by a Conservative MP? Our favourite big-eared football pundit has found himself in a war of words with the Sun newspaper after wading into the controversy over the age of the refugee children granted entry into Britain from Calais.

Pictures published earlier this week in the right-wing press prompted speculation over the migrants' “true age”, and a Tory MP even went as far as suggesting that these children should have their age verified by dental X-rays. All of which leaves your poor Mole with a deeply furrowed brow. But luckily the British Dental Association was on hand to condemn the idea as unethical, inaccurate and inappropriate. Phew. Thank God for dentists.

Back to old Big Ears, sorry, Saint Gary, who on Wednesday tweeted his outrage over the Murdoch-owned newspaper’s scaremongering coverage of the story. He smacked down the ex-English Defence League leader, Tommy Robinson, in a single tweet, calling him a “racist idiot”, and went on to defend his right to express his opinions freely on his feed.

The Sun hit back in traditional form, calling for Lineker to be ousted from his job as host of the BBC’s Match of the Day. The headline they chose? “Out on his ears”, of course, referring to the sporting hero’s most notable assets. In the article, the tabloid lays into Lineker, branding him a “leftie luvvie” and “jug-eared”. The article attacked him for describing those querying the age of the young migrants as “hideously racist” and suggested he had breached BBC guidelines on impartiality.

All of which has prompted calls for a boycott of the Sun and an outpouring of support for Lineker on Twitter. His fellow football hero Stan Collymore waded in, tweeting that he was on “Team Lineker”. Leading the charge against the Murdoch-owned title was the close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Channel 4 News economics editor, Paul Mason, who tweeted:

Lineker, who is not accustomed to finding himself at the centre of such highly politicised arguments on social media, responded with typical good humour, saying he had received a bit of a “spanking”.

All of which leaves the Mole with renewed respect for Lineker and an uncharacteristic desire to watch this weekend’s Match of the Day to see if any trace of his new activist persona might surface.


I'm a mole, innit.