It would be churlish not to celebrate revisions from the Office for National Statistics that tell us the UK is not, after all, the post-Covid invalid of the G7. Contrary to previous figures suggesting we had struggled to regain pre-pandemic levels of economic output, it turns out that our gross domestic product passed that benchmark in late 2021 and our performance has been in line with France and ahead of Germany.
Large sectoral revisions for agriculture and manufacturing tell us that statistical reporting is almost as much of a mug’s game as forecasting. But the brighter overall picture accords with the anecdotal sketch of ‘definite warming’ in consumer spending and confidence that I offered here early last month.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt says the new figures prove ‘the declinist narrative about Britain… is just wrong’, while ardent Brexiteers take the opportunity to raise two cheerful fingers to our former European partners. We enter the autumn season feeling a little better about ourselves – but with no excuse for complacency.
The current furore of crumbling concrete reminds us that economic progress is too often held back by bad infrastructure, as this week’s last item also illuminates. We’re a couple of weeks away from another likely interest-rate rise. Train drivers haven’t finished striking. Capital investment in UK businesses is perilously low. New trade deals beyond the EU have yet to deliver export triumph. So we’re not as sickly as we thought, but we’re a long way from rude health.
What on earth has happened to society if Tesco staff have to be equipped with body cameras in response to a one-third year-on-year increase in physical assaults – and if incidences of abuse against retail workers have doubled generally, compared with pre-pandemic figures? Other supermarket chains report similar trends, with shoplifters, often in organised gangs, grabbing upwards of a billion pounds worth of goods per year while battering anyone in their way.