Peter Hoskin

The presentational battle begins in earnest – as the double-dip warnings wind down

The presentational battle begins in earnest – as the double-dip warnings wind down
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Rule 97 in the Practitioner's Guide to Westminster Politics: if you want to get a message out pronto, then corral a bunch of impressive names into writing a letter to a national newspaper. We saw the tactic used by both Labour and the Tories before the election. And we see it again today, with a letter in the Telegraph, drafted by the Tory peer Lord Wolfson and signed by 35 business leaders, pushing George Osborne to "press ahead with his plans to reduce the deficit". And you know what? He may just do that.

In truth, these kinds of letters are hardly a bad thing for the government, however stage-managed they might be. As the week of the spending review kicks in, the headline that people will see is: "Cut now or pay later, say business leaders". And it makes the atmosphere even less clement for Alan Johnson as he prepares to unveil Labour's economic policy. It still delights the Tories that they can get big business figures to support their plans in public, whereas Labour often have to rely on lefty academics.

I can't help but find this story more significant, though. It summarises the latest forecast from the Ernst & Young Item club, a body that uses the same economic model as the Treasury to make its predictions. There's a heavy dose of doom and gloom in what they say, but the headline prediction is that we will avoid a double dip. As with all forecasts, that could be right, it could be wrong. But stir in Alan Johnson's admission yesterday that "what it looks like to me … is an L-shaped recession," and it seems like the double dip warnings are suffering a dip of their own.