It's not just the eurozone that could push the UK back into recession

The NIESR predicts a 70% chance of recession if the eurozone crisis is not solved -- and a 50% chanc

Most of this morning's papers reported on the latest study from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR). The figure they've chosen to lead on is that the UK has a 70 per cent chance of recession if policymakers fail to resolve the eurozone crisis. What gained less attention was the prediction that there is around a 50 per cent chance of a recession even if the crisis is successfully resolved.

Interestingly, the focus on the eurozone plays into the government's new emphasis on global factors in the UK's sluggish growth. When confronted with growth of just 0.5 per cent in the last 12 months at PMQs yesterday, Cameron responded that any growth was good amid the "global storm in the world economy". This is an important shift, given that in opposition Cameron slammed Gordon Brown for making the same argument, and that the coalition has repeatedly refused to acknowledge the role of the banking crash in creating the deficit, instead blaming Labour's spending.

The NIESR warned that the economy was in for the slowest recovery in 100 years, and that UK fiscal policy was "too tight" in the short-term. While the eurozone crisis is a concern, the fact that there is a 50 per cent chance of falling back into recession regardless shows that the problem is not just global, but that our leaders are not dealing with it in the right way. If global factors created the crisis, George Osborne's aggressive deficit reduction strategy has ensured we will not be the first out of it.

 

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

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

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