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The UK's inflation rate climbs to 3.5 per cent

Higher food prices and clothing costs drive unexpected rise on the consumer price index.

The UK’s rating on the all-items consumer price index (CPI), which measures changes in the prices of consumer goods and services, reached 122.2 in March 2012, an increase of 3.4 per cent compared to 121.8 the previous month.

The annual rate for CPI excluding indirect taxes, CPIY, was 3.5 per cent.

The CPI all-goods index was 118.7, up from 118.2 in February, while the CPI all-services index was 126.5, also up from February’s 126.2.

The largest upward effects came from food and non-alcoholic beverages, where overall prices fell by 0.5 per cent; and clothing and footwear, where prices rose by 2.2 per cent. In recreation and culture, prices fell by 0.1 per cent.

The largest downward effects came from housing, household services and transport.

The all-items retail price index (RPI), which measures the change in the cost of a basket of retail goods and services, reached 240.8 (based on January 1987 as 100) in March, a decrease of 3.7 per cent compared to 239.9 a month earlier.

The largest downward pressures to this change came from motoring expenditure and fuel and light, while upward pressures came from food and clothing.

Average house prices in the UK increased by 0.3 per cent over the year to February 2012. The average UK mix-adjusted house price in February 2012 was £224,473.

In the 12 months to February 2012, average house prices increased in both England and Scotland by 0.4 per cent and 1.1 per cent respectively, while house prices declined by 0.5 per cent and 9.7 per cent in Wales and Northern Ireland.

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No, David Cameron’s speech was not “left wing”

Come on, guys.

There is a strange journalistic phenomenon that occurs when a party leader makes a speech. It is a blend of groupthink, relief, utter certainty, and online backslapping. It happened particularly quickly after David Cameron’s speech to Tory party conference today. A few pundits decided that – because he mentioned, like, diversity and social mobility – this was a centre-left speech. A leftwing speech, even. Or at least a clear grab for the liberal centre ground. And so that’s what everyone now believes. The analysis is decided. The commentary is written. Thank God for that.

Really? It’s quite easy, even as one of those nasty, wicked Tories, to mention that you actually don’t much like racism, and point out that you’d quite like poor children to get jobs, without moving onto Labour's "territory". Which normal person is in favour of discriminating against someone on the basis of race, or blocking opportunity on the basis of class? Of course he’s against that. He’s a politician operating in a liberal democracy. And this isn’t Ukip conference.

Looking at the whole package, it was actually quite a rightwing speech. It was a paean to defence – championing drones, protecting Britain from the evils of the world, and getting all excited about “launching the biggest aircraft carriers in our history”.

It was a festival of flagwaving guff about the British “character”, a celebration of shoehorning our history chronologically onto the curriculum, looking towards a “Greater Britain”, asking for more “national pride”. There was even a Bake Off pun.

He also deployed the illiberal device of inculcating a divide-and-rule fear of the “shadow of extremism – hanging over every single one of us”, informing us that children in UK madrassas are having their “heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate”, and saying Britain shouldn’t be “overwhelmed” with refugees, before quickly changing the subject to ousting Assad. How unashamedly centrist, of you, Mr Prime Minister.

Benefit cuts and a reduction of tax credits will mean the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for “equality of opportunity, as opposed to equality of outcome” will be just that – with the outcome pretty bleak for those who end up losing any opportunity that comes with state support. And his excitement about diversity in his cabinet rings a little hollow the day following a tubthumping anti-immigration speech from his Home Secretary.

If this year's Tory conference wins the party votes, it’ll be because of its conservative commitment – not lefty love bombing.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.