by Martin Odoni

Back in August, news broke that the UK economy shrank during the second quarter of 2019, raising fears of a full-on recession. (The academic definition of a ‘recession’ is two consecutive quarters of shrinkage.) News released over the weekend is marginally happier, as the outright recession was avoided thanks to an anaemic burst of growth for quarter 3 of 0.3%. Better than another contraction, but not by much. The overall growth for the whole year is about 1%, the lowest in a decade.

The Tories will doubtless go on a victory lap during the current General Election campaign over this, but they really should not. GDP on its own is not a good measure of an economy’s health anyway. But even if it were, this little swelling in Gross Domestic Product is, as I say, pretty sterile; a solid quarter of growth is usually somewhere in the region of 0.8%. But also, most of the growth is the result of a strong July, when the shambolic administration of Boris Johnson was not even in office yet, let alone in a shape adequate to effect substantial economic improvement.

Moreover, the main cause of British economic misery since 2016 has been Brexit. Certainly not the only one. Ongoing Austerity and an unhappy international outlook are causing de-stimulating pain as well. But even so, the uncertainty caused by Brexit keeps directly hurting UK markets. Most particularly, markets always react very badly every time the likelihood of the UK leaving the European Union without a severance deal increases, but rally whenever chances of a deal improve.

Since becoming Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has not made any secret of his fondness for the prospect of No-Deal Brexit. He certainly shows little more than a ‘going-through-the-motions’ degree of urgency in trying to secure an acceptable deal, often coming up with absurd proposals that appear designed to be rejected. When he finally claimed to have gained a deal last month, it was largely just a rehash of Theresa May’s previous agreement, only with the so-called ‘backstop’ – worded so badly that it was one of its most objectionable details – turned into a permanent feature. It was almost inevitable it would fail to pass the House of Commons once again.

In short, Johnson is not a source of happy news on the Brexit front. And from that, given that Brexit is the source of so much unhappy economic news, it is quite clear that the slightly good GDP news has nothing to do with Johnson. On the contrary, little bursts of economic health only happen when Johnson’s plans go wrong.

Abra-ka-Bojob

The wizard of economics reveals his most pertinent incantation.

So when the Tories, or indeed the BBC, try to associate the avoidance of a recession with some kind of ‘economic wizardry’ in the Johnson administration, they will think you are gullible enough to believe it.

Please prove them wrong.

by Martin Odoni

Sorry for forgetting to get all excited over the last year or so, but it hasn’t been easy to. We’ve been told repeatedly over that time how the thrifty ingenuity of the Conservative Party has rescued and revived the British economy. We have had some growth in the economy since the summer in 2013, I suppose, but somehow, looking at it just doesn’t get me going.

But then, what I can never quite grasp is why the Tories expect everyone to have an orgasm about it. I mean, when have somewhat positive economic performance figures ever had that kind of effect on people?

Still, having said that, have you read the romantic tale of the year, about our delectable heroine, Edith Connie Mee? You haven’t? Well boy, are you missing out! Here’s an excerpt from the – mysteriously-not-bestselling – novel E. Connie Mee’s Diary; –

She stepped into the soft, candle-lit accounting office, the promise of indiscretion ever hanging above the balance-sheet print-outs. Then Gideon put his strong, masculine hand on her arm, well-practised and toned by the writer’s block brought on from endless filling in stationery-requisition reports in triplicate, and then with a romantic flourish, he leaned close and whispered a few sweet annual-debt-divided-by-quarters-and-recalculated-deficits-as-percentages-of-GDP in her ear… and then he… OH YES!!! YES-YES-YES!!! He nibbled seductively on her disability benefits, biting away just enough for her to really feel it. He ran his nimble fingers over her welfare-history file, uncladding all her papers and letting the folder drop to the floor between them. Then, he brought her to the height of ecstasy with the revelation that increased commercial sales from private borrowing had resulted in the satisfying elongation of the activity column of the graph for the year by three per cent! OHHHHHHH!!!!

“Oh Gideon,” she simpered, “Gideon! This has never happened to me before!!!!”

Well actually, that last sentence may even be true. George Osborne getting good performance figures out of the economy is something that has probably never happened to any of us before. And, in terms of figures that will give us something to get excited about on a personal level, no, we are still waiting.

Now, the BBC are reporting that the lukewarm economic ‘recovery’ of the last year-and-a-bit is already slowing down, which is not really a surprise given how unbalanced it is. It might improve again before too long if we’re lucky, but even so, the growth for this year was expected to be the aforementioned three per cent, but has already been downgraded by a significant margin, to two-point-six per cent (thus invalidating projected figures from the OBR that were only published at the beginning of this month). Certainly a long way from recessionary news, but still, a bit of a rushed, damp, premature withdrawal from the recent throes of heated economic passion.

Let’s get back to that book though! About two-and-a-quarter, rather short, paragraphs later…

“Oh dear, Gideon, was that it?” Connie asked, disappointed. “Never mind. We can try again next Parliamentary term.”

“I’m sorry, Connie, I’m not sure I can get my voting slip into your ballot box again that soon…”

It would seem that Tory economics really are a little like reputed Tory sex-lives. A lot of tedious, clumsy foreplay that reduces stimulation much more than it increases it, a much-delayed enlargement finally getting half-into-effect, a brief burst of boisterous, boastful bragging, and other even less eloquent grunting noises as the Tory imagines he has everything ‘turned-on’, and then the whole process just completely runs out of steam much too early for all the people left flat on their back to get any pleasure or benefit out of it.

Oh well, that’s Tory economic recoveries for you. It never feels like they last longer than ninety seconds.

How was it for you, everyone?