Outlook: New accounts

WELL THERE'S a thing. The last recession wasn't nearly as bad as you thought. It started later, wasn't as deep, and it finished earlier than the official statistics said at the time. What's more, the Clarke boom was even more of a boom than then recorded, while the present situation isn't as gloomy as figures suggest.

The good news doesn't end there either. You might have thought that, under pressure from the strong pound, the balance of trade plunged into deficit last year and is now heading south at a rate of knots, but it didn't. It barely slipped into deficit at all, and it is now showing a healthy surplus.

What a transformation a different statistic approach can work. Thanks to the bureaucrats of Brussels, the Government is applying for the first time a new system for calculating the national accounts - the European System of Accounts - and, perhaps surprisingly, it reflects rather better on Britain's economic performance than the traditional one.