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Coffee House

Labour prepares for the worst (good news on the economy)

24 October 2012

4:49 PM

24 October 2012

4:49 PM

Whether or not he did accidentally suggest that he knew what tomorrow’s GDP figures will be at Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron did have a jolly good point about the way Labour responds to good news on the economy. He told Ed Miliband:

‘It’s only a bad week if you think it’s bad that unemployment’s coming down, it’s only a bad week if you regret inflation coming down… every piece of good news sends that team into a complete decline, well, I can tell him, the good news will keep on coming.’

As Fraser blogged at the weekend, Ed Miliband’s strategy is predicated on the government continually cocking up. It’s not a bad way to work when the Number 10 machine definitely needs an MOT at the very least, but this approach will only have longevity if the next few months bring bad news on the really big issues, as well as those continual hiccups on policy announcements and rows about the behaviour of senior Tory figures. Yesterday’s polling underlined this: the public is worried about George Osborne’s handling of the economy, but not about Andrew Mitchell. Cameron and co could have made enormous bales of political hay out of the good news on employment, inflation and crime last week, but it has only been in the past few days that the Prime Minister managed to get a word in edgeways about these positive signs.

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But the news that Britain has come out of recession won’t be quite so low down the news agenda, particularly now Andrew Mitchell has gone and the Prime Minister has dealt with nerves in his own party about prisoner votes. And that’s why Rachel Reeves has been trying to limit the power that tomorrow’s announcement from the ONS will have. In a press release issued this afternoon, Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the Treasury said:

‘Growth of one per cent would simply mean the economy is the same size as a year ago. A one-off boost from the Olympics is no substitute for a long-term strategy and should not breed yet more complacency from David Cameron and George Osborne.’

Now, Reeves does have a point that the Olympic games aren’t exactly a long-term economic strategy, even though the Treasury does hope that the games will have had a positive effect on the Q3 figures. But Labour will look foolish and sour if shadow ministers spend tomorrow carping about this being the wrong sort of growth.

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