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

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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

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