Sean O'Grady: Labour has a good-news story. And it might just be true

There is every prospect relief for Brown will arrive in time for the election

Share
Related Topics

There's a video circulating on the web, readily available for viewing on YouTube and the usual Brown-hating, Brown-baiting blogs. It's another spoof of that brilliant film about Hitler's last days, Downfall, this time renamed "Brownfall" and placing our Prime Minister in the bunker, throwing stuff around, ranting about the treachery and idiocy of his comrades and growing violently paranoid about his place in history. The leader's power is draining away, along with his mental and physical heath. It isn't in the best of taste, but it is very funny.

Fortunately, the Fuhrer's phantom columns never did materialise, break the Red Army's grip on Berlin and rescue the Third Reich: but there is every prospect that relief for Mr Brown will indeed arrive, and well in time for the next general election, which we know must now be less than a year away.

For General Economic Recovery and his army of good news stories is advancing along a broad front. The recession is, apparently, over, according to many economists. The economic and electoral cycles are snapping into synch. Gordon and the economy have turned the corner: The "narrative" of Labour's next appeal to the country can at last be drafted.

The story will be honed and adapted, polished to within an inch of its veracity, and then turned on the Tories. OK, it isn't a miracle weapon, but it is more ammo than Labour's hard-pressed troops have had in a long time.

It goes like this. We (Labour) were right. Gordon Brown has successfully steered the nation through the worst downturn in three-quarters of a century. Our forecast – that the economy would be growing again by the end of 2009 – was derided, but proved correct.

The economy is expanding. Though unemployment is still rising, it too will fall. Gordon was right to stabilise the banking system by recapitalising it; right to increase public spending and borrow massively to avoid a slump; right also to keep his nerve. Obviously there were mistakes along the way, but if the PM had done as Cameron and Osborne has said we would not now be emerging from the darkest hour before the dawn, blinking as the sunlit uplands hove into view, but staring over the brink at a 1930s-style depression. Like Thatcher in 1979 to 1983, Brown showed strong leadership and was vindicated. Vote Labour.

At every available opportunity this story of economic recovery and leadership through turbulent times will be repeated: at the Labour conference in September, in the Pre-Budget Report in November, in a pre-election Spring Budget and during the election campaign itself. It will gain credibility as the recovery picks up.

There is a lot in it, actually, and it amply justifies Brown's determination to cling to power. Yesterday, the Office for National Statistics reported that manufacturing output has risen, albeit marginally, for a second month. It is bloodied and bowed, but the hard pounding suffered by British industry is over. Surveys of business and consumer confidence are turning brighter, an excellent pointer to where we will be in few months.

Most significantly, the respected National Institute for Economic and Social Research, who have an uncanny knack for getting things right, have effectively declared the recession over. They say that March was the trough, with output up in April and May. So, when Alistair Darling said in his Budget in April that the UK economy would grow again by 2010, his forecast was in fact already fulfilled. He may even have to revise his growth forecasts up, just as the City economists are doing now. There will be other, second order "good news" about: House prices will stabilise; the stock market has the wind in its sails; the banks may pay back their state aid early.

But recovery is a very elastic word. The truth is that this will be a faltering, stuttering, feeble recovery. We could easily slip backwards in a few months' time, which would make Labour's political narrative trickier but not completely impossible to tell. Longer-term, the debt overhang – public and private – will take decades to clear.

The 2010s will be a miserable decade: public services will come under renewed attack; and living standards will be squeezed. As in the 1970s, when the national cake didn't grow much, there will be conflict over who gets a bigger slice. There will be more strikes, more bitter arguments about which bits of the state's education and heath services have to be abandoned, resentments about generous public sector pensions on one side, and obscene City bonuses on the other.

In fact, the next government will have a horrendous job to do. If you were sane you probably wouldn't want to win the next election – but just try telling that to the man in the bunker.

s.ogrady@independent.co.uk

React Now

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

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron's 'compassionate conservatism' is now lying on its back  

Tory modernisation has failed under David Cameron

Michael Dugher
Russian President Vladimir Putin 'hits his foes where it hurts'  

Dominic Raab: If Western politicians’ vested interests protect Putin, take punishment out of their hands

Dominic Raab
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform