The coordinated attacks this week on George Osborne were pre-planned to coincide with the end of the recession as predicted by consensus economists. Except that the economy did not oblige. On Friday the ONS reported numbers that shocked Gordon Brown, who has long clung to the belief that a rising economy will save him. His curse prevailed.
Unlike in the rest of the recovering industrialised world, UK GDP fell by a shock 0.4 % last quarter, meaning the economy had now contracted for six successive quarters, the longest recession in British recorded history. Labour’s strategic plan, into which Guido understands Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson had input, was to use the reported official end of recession to claim victory in the battle against the crisis. On the back of that they would launch a ferocious attack on George Osborne’s response to the crisis.
There was no recovery reported. Op-eds had already been lined up in friendly papers, “lines to take” established, Bad Al Campbell himself lined up a letter in the FT focusing on Osborne’s shadow chancellor / campaign manager roles. Labour produced publicity material (above) and digital animations to be used in online campaigns. Mark Hanson, a backroom adviser on Labour’s online strategy, had placed a pre-written article on LabourList that he failed to revise to reflect the terrible Q3 GDP figures; “The campaign looks at what the real consequences would have been if George Osborne’s misjudgments had been enacted and led to a deeper, longer and more painful recession.”
That quote looks revealingly silly in the light of the figures showing Britain is suffering the deepest, longest and most painful recession ever recorded. Attack dogs Liam Byrne and Alastair Campbell nimbly recalibrated their attack lines. Instead of attacking Osborne as wrong on the recession, he was they claimed wrong on bailing out the banks (Byrne), wrong on political strategy (Campbell). With Gordon proved wrong on the recession by the numbers, with Britain shown to be worst placed of all the G7 nations, with our economy now smaller than Italy’s economy, the whole “Gordon was right on the recession” line is in tatters. Maybe they will try to resurrect it when the economy does finally bottom. Too late for Gordon, who by some accounts took the released figures very badly. At PMQs he stuck to the “I’m right, you are wrong, wrong, wrong” line even when the numbers showed differently.
With the new German government announcing a massive multi-billion growth package of tax cuts to boost the economy it will no longer be credible to paint the Tories as out of touch and isolated. The Tories have a surprise for Gordon, which Guido will spoil, footage of President Obama time and time again saying in recent months that you have to cut taxes to help people in a recession. With two of the industrialised world’s biggest economies – Germany and the United States – now implementing growth orientated policies, Gordon’s big government tax, borrow and spend will look out of kilter and isolated. His last hope of a political recovery strategy is now past its sell by date…