The Osborne effect

Growth is now expected to be just 1.2 per cent in 2011.

Raise VAT to a record high of 20 per cent, spread the myth that Britain is on the "brink of bankruptcy", cut spending before the economy is out of the recovery phase (240,000 public sector jobs have been lost in the past year - three times as many as forecast) and don't be surprised if growth falls away.

The Treasury has just published its round-up of independent growth forecasts and the economy is now expected to grow by just 1.2 per cent this year. The graph below shows how forecasts have been continually revised downwards as growth has plummeted (the economy has grown by just 0.2 per cent in the last nine months).

Average of independent forecasts for 2011 growth

A

Source: Treasury.

Almost every developed country has had to slash its growth forecasts as the global economy has deteriorated but few more so than Britain. Of the G7 countries, only disaster-ravaged Japan has grown more slowly than the UK in the last 12 months. The conclusion is clear: plan A isn't working. The longer George Osborne remains in denial, the harder the eventual U-turn will be.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Theresa May knows she's talking nonsense - here's why she's doing it

The Prime Minister's argument increases the sense that this is a time to "lend" - in her words - the Tories your vote.

Good morning.  Angela Merkel and Theresa May are more similar politicians than people think, and that holds true for Brexit too. The German Chancellor gave a speech yesterday, and the message: Brexit means Brexit.

Of course, the emphasis is slightly different. When May says it, it's about reassuring the Brexit elite in SW1 that she isn't going to backslide, and anxious Remainers and soft Brexiteers in the country that it will work out okay in the end.

When Merkel says it, she's setting out what the EU wants and the reality of third country status outside the European Union.  She's also, as with May, tilting to her own party and public opinion in Germany, which thinks that the UK was an awkward partner in the EU and is being even more awkward in the manner of its leaving.

It's a measure of how poor the debate both during the referendum and its aftermath is that Merkel's bland statement of reality - "A third-party state - and that's what Britain will be - can't and won't be able to have the same rights, let alone a better position than a member of the European Union" - feels newsworthy.

In the short term, all this helps Theresa May. Her response - delivered to a carefully-selected audience of Leeds factory workers, the better to avoid awkward questions - that the EU is "ganging up" on Britain is ludicrous if you think about it. A bloc of nations acting in their own interest against their smaller partners - colour me surprised!

But in terms of what May wants out of this election - a massive majority that gives her carte blanche to implement her agenda and puts Labour out of contention for at least a decade - it's a great message. It increases the sense that this is a time to "lend" - in May's words - the Tories your vote. You may be unhappy about the referendum result, you may usually vote Labour - but on this occasion, what's needed is a one-off Tory vote to make Brexit a success.

May's message is silly if you pay any attention to how the EU works or indeed to the internal politics of the EU27. That doesn't mean it won't be effective.

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

0800 7318496