Don't mention green shoots! Figures will show recession is over but ministers told not to get ahead of themselves
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Wednesday 24 October 2012
Ministers have been ordered not to refer to "green shoots" tomorrow when they respond to official figures showing that Britain has emerged from its double-dip recession.
Downing Street and the Treasury have told ministers to speak about a “healing economy” and not to be too triumphalist. They are worried that a return to growth will not generate a “feelgood factor” at a time when millions of people feel their living standards are squeezed.
Lord Lamont, the Chancellor during John Major’s Government, and Baroness Vadera, a close ally of Gordon Brown, both came under fire for spotting the “green shoots” of economic recovery which were later followed by mixed figures.
The Office of National Statistics is expected to confirm that the gross domestic product (GDP), which shrank in the three previous quarters, grew in the third quarter of this year, helped by the impact of Olympic ticket sales and broadcasting rights. But ministers fear that growth will be low or flat for the foreseeable future.
The Government’s strategy suffered a setback when David Cameron was accused of jumping the gun by referring to tomorrow’s figures at Prime Minister’s Questions today. He said positive signs “will keep coming.”
The UK Statistics Authority watchdog is investigating complaints that the Prime Minister breached the rules on disclosing official figures by hinting that good news can be expected tomorrow. But Downing Street said: “The issue here is was he talking about tomorrow's figures? I'm telling you he wasn't."
Number 10 declined to say whether Mr Cameron had received advance notice of tomorrow’s figures before Question Time. A senior Labour source said: “"It is a sign of a desperately weak David Cameron that he has to play fast and loose with the rules on financial information to get him out of a political hole."
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