Jim Armitage: Lord Wolfson puts bite on Chancellor's effort to gild an economic pig

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The Independent Online

Outlook Interesting times in the Wolfson household this weekend. The Tory peer Lord Wolfson – until yesterday the business world's biggest George Osborne fanboy – has come out swinging against the Chancellor's economic policies. Many of them were devised by the Next chief executive's own wife.

He could hardly have timed his attack more cynically. Just days after Mr Osborne trampled joyfully on a miserable-looking Ed Balls in the House over the economic recovery, the good Lord slammed him firmly back in his red box.

Bang! George's housing market stimulus would create a new property bubble. Bang! The so-called "recovery" was way too soon to call. Bang! Any gains the economy has made so far are driven by unsustainable debt.

Furthermore, rather than focus on the previous day's better unemployment figures, Lord Wolfson highlighted the more-gloomy stats about the nation's wages, which still fail to keep pace with inflation.

Lord W seems to be expressing the irritation many business leaders are feeling at the Chancellor's exuberance. Particularly those with significant operations outside London and the South-east which are still suffering.

While talking up the economy is part of the Government's job, it serves nobody to gild an economic pig. There's a fine line, as Norman Lamont discovered in his green shoots blunder, between a confidence boost and a confidence trick. Yes, our chief executives say, the economic data does appear to be taking a turn for the better. But times remain tough for businesses and their customers.