Murdoch, Balls, Huhne and Satan: is it possible they’re all related?
The debate about whether Rupert Murdoch and Satan are one and the same person has distracted attention from the worrying state of the economy. But gruesome statistics and forecasts are stacking up
like the blizzard-stricken aircraft in Die Hard II, and waiting on the tarmac to greet them with a mad glint in his eye is shadow chancellor Ed Balls, the only man in Britain whose career prospects
would catapult upwards out of a double-dip — and for my money, the only one who makes both Rupert and Satan look cuddly as puppies.
What numbers are circling up there, or lurking down here unnoticed, while the hacking scandal fills every cranny of news space? For a start, one in three finance directors of major UK companies now
believes we’re likely to slip back into recession, while most estimates for growth in the April-June quarter go no higher than the British Chambers of Commerce’s figure of 0.3 per cent,
far below what would be needed to achieve full-year forecasts by both the Bank of England and the Office for Budget Responsibility of 1.7 per cent. A more probable outcome is that we will struggle
even to match the sluggish 1.3 per cent achieved last year.
Meanwhile the manufacturing sector, until recently the great hope for recovery, seems to be stalling, a modestly busy May having merely made up for a very slack April. Retailers had a slightly more
lucrative month than expected in June but sales were still down on last year and, as I wrote last week, shops are still closing everywhere. The fact that the private sector has created half a
million new jobs in the past year, making up for many of the jobs lost so far as a result of public sector cuts, is no guarantee that the trend will continue.