The problem with Cameron's "global race": we're losing it

What the Tories' latest PPB didn't mention: the UK has grown at a slower rate than every G20 country except Italy and Japan.

As you might have noticed by now, David Cameron is keen to remind us that we're in a "global race". In the latest Conservative party political broadcast (Britain in the Global Race), the PM declares: "we're in a global race competing against these new rising countries in the south and the east of our world, China and India, now I want Britain to be a success story". 

But while Cameron's international perspective might be commendable, it's not clear that it's in his interests to adopt it. If we are in a "global race", it's one we're unambiguously losing. As an analysis of growth by the House of Commons library showed last month, Britain is at the bottom of the G20 league table, having grown by just 0.4 per cent since the 2010 Spending Review, a worse performance than every country except Japan and Italy. 

Worse, as the TUC's Duncan Weldon has shown, IMF data reveals that the UK is currently 158th out of 184 countries, with total growth in the last three years of just 2.2 per cent, compared to 8.4 per cent for Germany, 7.7 per cent for Canada, 6.5 per cent for the US, 6 per cent for Japan and 3.5 per cent for France. While Cameron sets his sights on India and China, we're lagging behind "sclerotic" Europe.

Fortunately for the PM, voters aren't in the habit of consulting IMF tables and, after years of Labour "profligacy", are largely resigned to austerity. Liam Byrne's famously unhelpful note to David Laws ("Dear chief secretary, I'm afraid there is no money left"), cited by Cameron at the start of the broadcast, remains the gift that keep giving. 

David Cameron speaks to youth during his visit to the Mercedes-Benz UK National Apprentice Academy in Milton Keynes. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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PMQs review: Theresa May shows how her confidence has grown

After her Brexit speech, the PM declared of Jeremy Corbyn: "I've got a plan - he doesn't have a clue". 

The woman derided as “Theresa Maybe” believes she has neutralised that charge. Following her Brexit speech, Theresa May cut a far more confident figure at today's PMQs. Jeremy Corbyn inevitably devoted all six of his questions to Europe but failed to land a definitive blow.

He began by denouncing May for “sidelining parliament” at the very moment the UK was supposedly reclaiming sovereignty (though he yesterday praised her for guaranteeing MPs would get a vote). “It’s not so much the Iron Lady as the irony lady,” he quipped. But May, who has sometimes faltered against Corbyn, had a ready retort. The Labour leader, she noted, had denounced the government for planning to leave the single market while simultaneously seeking “access” to it. Yet “access”, she went on, was precisely what Corbyn had demanded (seemingly having confused it with full membership). "I've got a plan - he doesn't have a clue,” she declared.

When Corbyn recalled May’s economic warnings during the referendum (“Does she now disagree with herself?”), the PM was able to reply: “I said if we voted to leave the EU the sky would not fall in and look at what has happened to our economic situation since we voted to leave the EU”.

Corbyn’s subsequent question on whether May would pay for single market access was less wounding than it might have been because she has consistently refused to rule out budget contributions (though yesterday emphasised that the days of “vast” payments were over).

When the Labour leader ended by rightly hailing the contribution immigrants made to public services (“The real pressure on public services comes from a government that slashed billions”), May took full opportunity of the chance to have the last word, launching a full-frontal attack on his leadership and a defence of hers. “There is indeed a difference - when I look at the issue of Brexit or any other issues like the NHS or social care, I consider the issue, I set out my plan and I stick to it. It's called leadership, he should try it some time.”

For May, life will soon get harder. Once Article 50 is triggered, it is the EU 27, not the UK, that will take back control (the withdrawal agreement must be approved by at least 72 per cent of member states). With MPs now guaranteed a vote on the final outcome, parliament will also reassert itself. But for now, May can reflect with satisfaction on her strengthened position.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.