Obviously, these figures, which are worse than expected, lend weight to the argument that Brown’s policies impair recovery. Also, they demolish Brown’s claim that he ran up a deficit in the boom years to protect employment: unemployment is now higher than it was 16 years ago.
As Paul Goodman argues at Con Home, the Tories must press the case that Ken Clarke’s legacy has been well and truly squandered, and at a terrible and ongoing cost. That is all they need do. The Tories have reacted to Clegg’s ascent with the scattergun. It’s got them nowhere. There’s a clear contrast between their inscrutable waffle about the Big Society and the simple counter-arguments that the big society means big cuts. The truth of those competing statements is immaterial at this stage of the battle; simplicity and coherence are everything. The Tory message needs to be both economic and economical.