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Business Comment

James Moore: King's 'sort of' recovery can easily go off

Outlook: It's that dreaded "double dip" again, except that, according to Mervyn King, we are not going to experience one – probably. The Governor of the Bank of England says Britain's economic recovery will be weak and fragile but it will be sustained. It is hard to see anything as good news when a jobless total of 2.43 million is announced, but the fact is that this was a shade better than expected.

Mr King's comments could also be seen as relatively optimistic. He is, after all, a central banker and a dour old stick at the best of times, so it is unlikely he would be spreading happiness and joy, even if the economy were going like a train (and it's going to be an awful long time before it does that). There has, though, been a consistent drip feed of positive news over the past few months and there is now, at long last, grounds for some muted optimism. But, as Mr King warned, it is just going to take rather a long time for things to feel better.

However, this sort of recovery could easily be knocked off course (something the Bank Governor has warned us about) and Britain's appalling deficit is looming ever larger. It needs to be addressed but doing so in the wrong way at the wrong time could tip us right back into the pit. The "W-shaped recession" this would produce could look as if the second "V" was drawn by a drunk whose pen had slipped.

Time, then, for the Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, to put his pen to paper and show he is sober. His reticence is understandable on one level – remember John Smith's disastrous "Shadow Budget" in 1992 and how it was ripped to shreds, playing a big part in Labour's eventual defeat. But these are troubled times and drip feeding out the odd Conservative proposal while rowing with Mandy is simply not good enough.