James Forsyth

Growth but of the weakest possible sort

Growth but of the weakest possible sort
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So Britain did grow in the fourth quarter of last year but only by 0.1 percent. Many on the Labour side had hoped that the moment that the country started growing again, Brown would be able to go on the offensive; arguing that his handling of the economy had steered Britain through the crisis. But the fact that the growth number is considerably lower than expected, most predictions were for growth of 0.3 to 0.4 percent, has rather stymied that plan.

There are now only one more set of GDP figures before the election, presuming that it is held in May. So, it is now almost certain that Brown will not be able to go to the country boasting of a robust recovery. (The worst case scenario for Brown is that these figures are revised downwards meaning we are still in recession). I expect Brown will use the weakness of the recovery as an argument for not cutting spending. But the Tories will be able to use the fact that Britain has spent longer in recession than pretty much any other major economy, that 2009 saw a record contraction of the economy and this anaemic growth to batter Brown's reputation for economic competence still further