George Osborne will be delighted with today's figures. Photo: Getty.
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GDP figures may be misleading, but Osborne is benefiting

The UK economy has now grown by 4 per cent in eighteen months. George Osborne may yet be the next Tory leader.

Today's GDP figures show the economy has finally surpassed its pre-crisis levels.

We have taken a look at how such headline figures can be misleading, and the FT has analysed the data in depth.

But the figures are also a reminder of George Osborne's remarkable personal recovery. As we recently reported, Osborne's personal ratings have reversed in the past eighteen months.

The Coalition's economic approval

In July 2013 more than 60 per cent of voters disapproved of the way the government was handling the economy, and only 30 per cent approved.

Now, almost as many people support the government's approach as oppose it.

Economic growth

Recent polling suggests this newfound approval may have stalled, but a growing economy has clearly helped the government recover from its miserable ratings in 2012.

After two years of intermittent and negative growth, GDP has risen more than 4 per cent in the past eighteen months.

Osborne's personal ratings

This has proven to be very good news for Osborne, whose political career appeared dead at the start of last year when the economy stumbled through a fourth quarter of negative growth under the Coalition.

Throughout 2012, fewer than one in eight voters approved of Osborne’s economic plans, and six in ten consistently disapproved of them. Now, one in three voters approve of his approach, and fewer than one in four disapprove – his best ratings for four years.

This a sea change from 2012, when critics encircled the Chancellor.

The "scale and speed and completeness with which things are going wrong are numbing", declared John Lanchester in the LRB. "This was not supposed to happen", blared the Independent. We pointed to Obama’s rejection of "Osbornomics", and a former Bank of England member called for a new strategy in Prospect.

When Fitch, the discredited but newsworthy credit rating agency, downgraded the UK’s rating in April 2013, one of Osborne's justifications for cuts was scuppered. He had pointed to our safeguarded rating three years earlier, as "a big vote of confidence" for "the coalition government's economic policies".

Osborne is only judged by the economy 

His personal ratings move in line with the government’s, and the government’s are largely determined by GDP. 

This shows that there are only four days in the year which should matter to the Chancellor – and they come around with the GDP figures every three months.

Those backing Osborne to be next Tory leader will be quietly gleeful with today's numbers.


This is a preview of, an affiliated site launching later this year. You can find related analyses here.


Harry Lambert was the editor of May2015, the New Statesman's election website.

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For the first time in my life I have a sworn enemy – and I don’t even know her name

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

Last month, I made an enemy. I do not say this lightly, and I certainly don’t say it with pride, as a more aggressive male might. Throughout my life I have avoided confrontation with a scrupulousness that an unkind observer would call out-and-out cowardice. A waiter could bring the wrong order, cold and crawling with maggots, and in response to “How is everything?” I’d still manage a grin and a “lovely, thanks”.

On the Underground, I’m so wary of being a bad citizen that I often give up my seat to people who aren’t pregnant, aren’t significantly older than me, and in some cases are far better equipped to stand than I am. If there’s one thing I am not, it’s any sort of provocateur. And yet now this: a feud.

And I don’t even know my enemy’s name.

She was on a bike when I accidentally entered her life. I was pushing a buggy and I wandered – rashly, in her view – into her path. There’s little doubt that I was to blame: walking on the road while in charge of a minor is not something encouraged by the Highway Code. In my defence, it was a quiet, suburban street; the cyclist was the only vehicle of any kind; and I was half a street’s length away from physically colliding with her. It was the misjudgment of a sleep-deprived parent rather than an act of malice.

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

I was stung by what someone on The Apprentice might refer to as her negative feedback, and walked on with a redoubled sense of the parental inadequacy that is my default state even at the best of times.

A sad little incident, but a one-off, you would think. Only a week later, though, I was walking in a different part of town, this time without the toddler and engrossed in my phone. Again, I accept my culpability in crossing the road without paying due attention; again, I have to point out that it was only a “close shave” in the sense that meteorites are sometimes reported to have “narrowly missed crashing into the Earth” by 50,000 miles. It might have merited, at worst, a reproving ting of the bell. Instead came a familiar voice. “IT’S YOU AGAIN!” she yelled, wrathfully.

This time the shock brought a retort out of me, probably the harshest thing I have ever shouted at a stranger: “WHY ARE YOU SO UNPLEASANT?”

None of this is X-rated stuff, but it adds up to what I can only call a vendetta – something I never expected to pick up on the way to Waitrose. So I am writing this, as much as anything, in the spirit of rapprochement. I really believe that our third meeting, whenever it comes, can be a much happier affair. People can change. Who knows: maybe I’ll even be walking on the pavement

Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian and novelist. His most recent book, Crap at the Environment, follows his own efforts to halve his carbon footprint over one year.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood