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.

Photo: Getty
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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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