It's a (sigh) Valentine's Day massacre

GDP down worldwide.

Well, everyone agrees today is a Valentine's Day massacre, with growth slashed (or, I suppose, riddled with bullets) worldwide.

  • In Japan, GDP shrunk by 0.1 per cent in the last quarter against expectations of 0.1 per cent growth.
  • In Germany, GDP contracted by 0.6 per cent in the last quarter.
  • In France, it fell by 0.3 per cent over the same period.
  • In Italy, by 0.9 per cent.
  • Portugal declined by 1.8 per cent.
  • In Greece, GDP is reported in comparison with the same quarter in the previous year. The level at the end of Q4 2012 was 6 per cent lower than in Q4 2011.
  • The Eurozone as a whole contracted by 0.6 per cent, worse than expectations of a 0.4 per cent contraction.

That's the worst performance in almost four years for the Eurozone, and an alarming decline on even the post-crisis trend, as this chart from Natixis Asset Management's Philippe Waechter, via Business Insider, shows:


Not a very happy Valentine's day for most of Europe, then.

The valentine's day massacre. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Grant Shapps on the campaign trail. Photo: Getty
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Grant Shapps resigns over Tory youth wing bullying scandal

The minister, formerly party chairman, has resigned over allegations of bullying and blackmail made against a Tory activist. 

Grant Shapps, who was a key figure in the Tory general election campaign, has resigned following allegations about a bullying scandal among Conservative activists.

Shapps was formerly party chairman, but was demoted to international development minister after May. His formal statement is expected shortly.

The resignation follows lurid claims about bullying and blackmail among Tory activists. One, Mark Clarke, has been accused of putting pressure on a fellow activist who complained about his behaviour to withdraw the allegation. The complainant, Elliot Johnson, later killed himself.

The junior Treasury minister Robert Halfon also revealed that he had an affair with a young activist after being warned that Clarke planned to blackmail him over the relationship. Former Tory chair Sayeedi Warsi says that she was targeted by Clarke on Twitter, where he tried to portray her as an anti-semite. 

Shapps appointed Mark Clarke to run RoadTrip 2015, where young Tory activists toured key marginals on a bus before the general election. 

Today, the Guardian published an emotional interview with the parents of 21-year-old Elliot Johnson, the activist who killed himself, in which they called for Shapps to consider his position. Ray Johnson also spoke to BBC's Newsnight:


The Johnson family claimed that Shapps and co-chair Andrew Feldman had failed to act on complaints made against Clarke. Feldman says he did not hear of the bullying claims until August. 

Asked about the case at a conference in Malta, David Cameron pointedly refused to offer Shapps his full backing, saying a statement would be released. “I think it is important that on the tragic case that took place that the coroner’s inquiry is allowed to proceed properly," he added. “I feel deeply for his parents, It is an appalling loss to suffer and that is why it is so important there is a proper coroner’s inquiry. In terms of what the Conservative party should do, there should be and there is a proper inquiry that asks all the questions as people come forward. That will take place. It is a tragic loss of a talented young life and it is not something any parent should go through and I feel for them deeply.” 

Mark Clarke denies any wrongdoing.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.