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6 September 2011

Support for George Osborne continues to fall away

The CBI chief, John Cridland, and the Pimco MD, Bill Gross, are the latest figures to stress the urg

By David Blanchflower

First, it was the IMF that deserted George Osborne. Now, it’s the CBI and the founder of the world’s biggest bond fund.

John Cridland, the CBI chief, argued in a recent interview that Osborne needs to “step up a gear” and deliver a growth plan for 2012 before it is too late. The CBI is also apparently about to scale back its growth forecast for 2011.

“Times have got tougher and we need more action. It’s time to get moving; extra gear, more urgency, more action,” said Cridland. “It’s no good having a growth review focusing on five years’ time; we ain’t got five years. It’s about growth over the next 12 months,” he claimed colourfully in an interview in the Financial Times on 5 September. Dead on.

Cridland and I were on the Today programme a little while ago, discussing what could be done to stimulate growth and he seemed an entirely sensible and honourable man. In his interview today, Cridland expressed support for stoking up infrastructure spending in transport, power stations and housing; which is clearly a good idea and I will definitely back him on that. I’m also extremely pleased that, today, Cridland has come out in support of my suggestion that the government should cut National Insurance contributions for employers hiring young people. I am happy to back him on this. The hundreds of thousands of unemployed youngsters are also grateful. Thanks John. These are good ideas that will get the economy moving, although I don’t support his view that the 50p tax rate should be scrapped. That would increase inequality and simply look so unfair to those who are struggling to survive in this awful recession. Relative things matter.

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Then, in an interview in the Times on 5 September, the managing director of Pimco, Bill Gross, argued that:

The economy in the UK is worse off than it was when the plan was developed, so there should be at a minimum fine-tuning and perhaps re-routing of the plan . . . the problem becomes if it is too quick and swift and leads to an economic contraction, which it appears close to doing in the UK. Bond investors obviously want not just low inflation but some type of positive growth. An economy that doesn’t grow, like Japan, ultimately can’t resolve its debt crisis, either.

I do recall that long list of people that Osborne was so pleased to trot out, saying that everyone supported him. Those who didn’t, he claimed, were “deficit deniers”. Where are his supporters now? Long gone as the economy tanks.