A strange story has started to emerge about the British economy. Apparently, it’s in recovery! The central plotline boils down to one key statistic: the UK economy is growing. GDP growth in the second quarter of 2013 was 0.7 per cent, following 0.3 per cent growth in the first quarter, the first time there had been two consecutive quarters of growth since 2011. If the preliminary estimate of 0.8 per cent for the third quarter is confirmed next month, it will represent the highest quarterly growth recorded since the third quarter of 2007 (surpassing even the Olympics boost of the third quarter of 2012).
The protagonist of the recovery story has been George Osborne. In a speech in September 2013 he claimed that ‘the UK recovery has strengthened rapidly over the last six months’, and that ‘the evidence increasingly suggests that our macroeconomic plan [the austerity agenda] was the right one and is working’.
The narrator has been the mainstream broadcast media, which is seemingly content to report on certain measures of economic outcomes to a regimented timetable, without seriously questioning either the significance or meaning of slight changes in key measures, and certainly not the validity of the measures themselves.
The story desperately requires a second draft, not least to place the rather meagre growth success in context.
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