Inflation has risen for the first time in ten months, with the consumer prices index growing by 1.8 per cent in the year to April 2014, up from 1.6 per cent in March.
On the surface, this looks like bad news for the Coalition, which has boasted that falling inflation shows that Ed Miliband’s cost-of-living crisis is coming to an end. And certainly Labour has tried to capitalise on the rise already, with Shadow Treasury Minister Catherine McKinnell saying:
‘These figures underline why this Tory-led government is wrong to be so complacent about the cost-of-living crisis. Wages after inflation have fallen by an average of £1,600 a year since 2010 and the link between the wealth of the nation and family finances is broken. A huge turnaround is needed to ensure working people aren’t worse off than when David Cameron came to office.’
But it’s not quite that simple: the ONS figures say that the cost of food and non-alcoholic beverages fell by 0.5 per cent between March and April 2014 compared with a 0.7 per cent rise over the same period a year ago – the largest factor pulling inflation down. The biggest upward pushes were in transport and clothing and footwear. The cost-of-living crisis isn’t quite as focused on food as some Labour posters would have you believe.
But the response from the Treasury has been rather low-key so far, with just a spokesperson saying:
‘The latest figures show that inflation remains below the target rate and well below half of the peak in September 2011. Lower inflation and rising job numbers show that the government’s long term plan is working and Britain is coming back. The biggest risk to economic security would be abandoning the plan that is creating a brighter economic future.’
More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us.