In the light of yesterday’s late arrival Autumn Statement from Chancellor George Osborne, the Office of Budget Responsibility report entitled Economic & Fiscal Outlook December 2013 makes for some very interesting reading. I’d sort of expected it to lick Orbnose all over, but far from it. There now follow some real gems (my emphases noted):
‘The UK economy has picked up more strongly in 2013 than we expected in our March forecast…[but]…business investment and net trade have continued to disappoint‘.
‘We judge the positive growth surprise to have been cyclical, reducing the amount of spare capacity in the economy, rather than indicating stronger underlying growth potential.’
‘We do not expect the quarterly growth rates seen during 2013 to be sustained in 2014. While consumer confidence, credit conditions and the housing market have improved, productivity and real earnings growth have remained weak.’
‘The Government’s supplementary target is for public sector net debt (PSND) to be falling as a share of GDP in 2015-16. But, as in our December 2012 and March 2013 forecasts, we expect PSND still to be rising in that year. We expect PSND to peak at 80.0 per cent of GDP in 2015-16, to fall by a statistically and fiscally insignificant margin in 2016-17, and then to fall more rapidly to 75.9 per cent of GDP by 2018-19. This implies that, relative to the size of the economy, debt will peak at more than double its pre-crisis level.’
Frankly, for anyone who’s awake, this amounts to a demolition of the upbeat note Osborne’s head struck against the Optimism Bell yesterday morning. Here we have the most pro-Coalition Government source there is saying quite clearly that business investment and export trade are poor, the numbers being offered as proof of a recovery are nothing more than cyclical blips, productivity is crap, things will get worse in 2014, and in 2015 the national debt will be twice what it was before the banking crisis.
So you’d expect Her Majesty’s Opposition to have a field day with that, would you not? Well, if there’s one thing you can always rely on the Two Eds to do, it’s disappoint us. Mr Balls just couldn’t resist the soundbite cliche as he said, “I have to say, Mr Speaker, on the cost of living crisis and energy, and on supporting families, this Government just doesn’t get it.”
Sweet Jesus. To be fair, he did mention the OBR variances (once, in half a sentence) and he did point out that the Chancellor is way behind on his forecasts of both borrowing and trade. But all this was hidden in a string of limp gags such as:
“….after their panicked and half-baked attempt to steal Labour’s clothes, we know they’re not very good at shooting badgers…they’re not very good at shooting other people’s foxes either.”
Stealing clothes, badgers and foxes….does Balls understand the first thing about registering a point?
I have long had a problem with Ed Balls: I think he is devious, bullying, corrupt and controlling. But his biggest single problem is that he has not the first clue how to hold an audience, wait for silence, choose a simple example and then deliver it with passion. He is, I’m afraid, just another mediocre Harvard technician parachuted into a safe seat by his Lord Gordon….whom he denied thrice when push came to shove.
Ah well, Friday morning. Media asleep, Opposition inept, electorate distracted. Same old same old.