Chart of the day: Double dip

The UK is back in recession. GDP shrank by 0.2 per cent, according to the ONS's preliminary estimates, following a fall of 0.3 per cent last quarter. Since the spending review, the first major act by the incoming coalition government, the economy has contracted by 0.3 per cent. It may not matter economically whether or not the economy contracts two quarters in a row rather than just stagnating for two quarters, but politically it means a great deal.

The Financial Times warns that the ONS figures seem very different to those that industry surveys imply, and suggests that there may even be a hefty upward revision in the second and final estimates for growth. But even if that were the case, the economy would still be in the doldrums. All of which suggests that maybe staking the entire economic reputation of a nation and a government on a capricious dichotomous variable might not be the best idea. But what could replace it?