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25 July 2014updated 23 Jul 2021 9:11am

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.

By Harry Lambert

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.

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

Economic growth

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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 May2015.com, an affiliated site launching later this year. You can find related analyses here.