These GDP figures show the Bank of England didn’t know what it was doing

A monkey throwing darts at a dartboard could hardly have  done worse

Share

The data from the Office for National Statistics on the quarterly changes to GDP last Thursday were especially interesting. The statistical authority did revise away the double dip by raising the data for Q1 2012 from minus 0.1 to 0, so there are no longer two successive negative quarters (see table). However, it should be said that this not the end of the matter, given that more revisions are likely to come for several years and the double-dip may yet reappear like an unwanted phoenix from the ashes.

And overall, what is called the 2013 Blue Book lowered total growth under the Coalition since Q3 2010 by 0.1 per cent.

The biggest news, though, from the data release was the downward revisions to recession itself in 2008 and 2009. This recession looks likely to be twice as long-lasting as the Great Depression, measured by how long it will take to restore lost output.  It took 48 months in the Thirties; we are 62 months in and counting this time around.

The ONS now estimates the recession was even deeper than we thought. As can be seen from the table, output is now estimated to have dropped a cumulative 7.3 per cent in what I call the slump phase, the five quarters from Q2 2008 to Q2 2009, compared with an estimate of 6.5 per cent in the June 2012 Blue Book.

 Of particular note is the deduction of a whole percentage point from the first quarter of 2009, from minus 1.5 per cent to minus 2.5 per cent, as well as a downward revision to Q2 2009 from minus 0.2 to minus 0.4. This means the economy today is some 4 per cent below the starting level of GDP in 2008, and 17 per cent below the level the economy would have been at if trend growth had persisted. To put it bluntly, we are still in a big mess. 

In addition, quarterly GDP growth for Q4 2007 estimated from the 2012 June Blue Book was also revised downward. When the estimate was first produced growth was 0.6 per cent, and is now only 0.1 per cent, down from 0.2 per cent in the 2012 Blue Book.

Even though the data for Q1 2008 was not revised down in this Blue Book, it was initially 0.4 per cent and is now 0.1 per cent. 

Interestingly, in the August 2008 Inflation Report the Monetary Policy Committee forecast that there was going to be no recession, and most importantly did not spot that Q2 2008 was a turning point and the start of the worst recession in living memory. It also had already received these two estimates, and in its “backcast”, which attempts to predict what will happen to revisions, suggested they would be revised up. 

So now we know in August 2008 that the MPC under Sir Mervyn King had no idea where the economy had been, no idea where it was at that time, and absolutely no idea where it was going, and still hasn’t. A monkey throwing darts at a dartboard could hardly have done worse.

The economy grew nicely, by 2.3 per cent under Labour in the four-quarter-long recovery phase from Q4 2009 to Q3 2010, when fiscal and monetary stimuli were working together. Then came Slasher George and his austerian outriders Sir Mervyn King, Danny Alexander and Nick Clegg. In the quarters since then the economy tanked, and has grown a total of only 1.6 per cent, of which 0.7 per cent, from Q3 2012, is attributable to Labour’s investment in the Olympics.

So 10 quarters have produced pathetic growth of 0.09 per cent a quarter. At that rate it will take at least another four years to restore lost output to its starting level. The economy is in a dead-cat bounce.

And then there was the Spending Review, which was necessary because the lack of growth has decimated George Osborne’s vicious and deluded plans hatched to deal with the deficit. There were spending cuts as far as the eye could see, and plans for firing another 160,000 public sector workers, which will increase unemployment again.

The ultimate insult, though, was when Mr Osborne lied to the House of Commons when he claimed the deficit had fallen when it was clear it rose last year by £227m, according to the official data from the ONS. It was £118,524m in 2011/12 and £118,751m in 2012/2013. As in up. It has to be said also that it was pretty hard to understand what Mr Osborne actually announced.

Indeed, Paul Johnson, director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, complained in his post-review briefing: “Let me start by getting a moan off the collective chest of the IFS. The documentation and explanation accompanying yesterday’s Spending Review announcements was woeful. That may not seem like much of a headline. But it matters. Publishing such a small amount of information with so little explanation is not an exercise in open government.” So much for transparency.

It also remains clear that the austerians have one and only one plan for growth. It is their knight in shining armour, Mark Carney, who will ride into town next week with a big salary and the Government’s hopes resting on his shoulders.

I am watching three things. First, personnel changes. Charlotte Hogg being hired and his press officer, Jeremy Harrison, being brought in from Canada and Paul Tucker leaving are all good signs.

Second, whether the MPC does more quantitative easing, and of what type, over next three months.

Third, how Mr Carney votes, and if he is in a minority. 

I suspect we will initially see everyone voting for no change, so as not to embarrass him, and then finally everyone voting for more easing,  for the same reason. But good luck to him – he will need it.

Incidentally, there was a big farewell drinky for Sir Mervyn King at the Bank of England last week, where I understand lots of past and present MPC members were present along with the Chancellor, who made a congratulatory speech.

My invitation appears to have been lost in the post, because it hasn’t arrived yet. I can’t believe the Tyrant King wouldn’t invite me. I bet Gordon Brown wasn’t invited either. The King is dead, long live the good Dr Carney.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner / Caretaker / Storeman

£15500 - £17680 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has become available...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Sales - SaaS B2B

£60000 - £120000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This conference call startup i...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital and print design a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice
File photo dated 11/3/2014 of signage for the main entrance and emergency department at a hospital  

Weekend opt-out is stumbling block as BMA and NHS negotiate new consultant and junior doctor contracts

Charlie Cooper
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms