There’s a new phenomenon on Twitter, which involves people filming their own reactions to major (usually sporting) events. The 12 hours around Andy Murray’s Wimbledon victory saw 3.2 million tweets, many of which were young men’s Vine posts (short Twitter videos) of themselves leaping around their sitting room.
Had Chancellor George Osborne filmed himself post-Autumn Statement, he too would have been dancing a merry jig.
Politically, this was a big win. After a torrid three years, the Chancellor finally came to the despatch box with positive news. “Britain’s economic plan is working,” he started, continuing with one of the few un-leaked forecasts: that the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) actually expects a small government surplus in 2018/19. This, says BBC business editor Robert Peston, will mean the state is reduced to a size last seen in 1948.
BBC political editor Nick Robinson said that “there is no doubt this was George Osborne’s day”. More colourfully, Daily Mail columnist Simon Heffer savaged Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls’ response: “In a Commons response that veered between bombast, irrelevance and self-parody, it soon became clear that Mr Balls was, in fact, releasing the most enormous cry of anguish at having been monumentally wrong on the economy”. So far, so satisfying for the Coalition government.
One day on, the big guns are starting to weigh in. Their verdict isn’t so favourable.
One can imagine the Financial Times economics editor Chris Giles not even listening to Osborne’s statement, so dismissive is he of the political posturing. “Forget the announcements”, he says in his must-read “8 things you need to know about the Autumn Statement – in charts”. The net tax and spending measures, he says, “are tiny compared with the forecasting changes to tax receipts.” The graph that goes with his assertion makes Osborne look like a pinprick on a map of the world.
The other serious economic commentators are also gathering around a consensus. “George Osborne’s recovery is built on sand,” says Jeremy Warner in the Telegraph. He, too, quotes the OBR’s sober analysis: “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.”
City AM editor Allister Heath has consistently said in recent weeks that the UK is enjoying (an awful and appropriate word) the wrong kind of growth. Even the OBR’s upward revisions to GDP growth show this, he says: “of the 2.4 per cent growth that is expected, consumer spending will account for 1.2 points, government for 0.3 points (so much for austerity) and net trade for zero, which is shocking.” He concludes, tartly, with the line of the day: “Osborne has achieved growth – but its composition is not a sustainable basis on which to rebuild the UK economy.”
Put the camera down, George.
This analysis was originally written for Citypress‘s Smart Insights newsletter.