Monday, June 15, 2009

Thoughts from the Train: so what if Gordon and Alastair were right after all?

I've had this slightly discomforting sense over recent weeks that, whilst the actions of previous governments of both red and blue persuasion were responsible for getting us into this economic mess in the first place, the response by the Government has been relatively effective after all.

It's the little things, the comments by Paul Krugman recently that suggest that Britain is best placed to emerge from recession, the reported drops in industrial production and exports from countries such as Germany and Japan, the rebound of sterling against a basket of currencies. And yet the Government may still snatch defeat from the still forming jaws of a strategy that might, just might, allow them to avoid the kind of defeat that threatens them now.

Of course, on the economy, Liberal Democrats still have a good story to tell. Much of Labour's response to the crash was presaged by calls from the inestimable Dr Cable, and his personal credibility remains high. Indeed, when it comes to learning the lessons, you would still fancy Vince to do a better job of implementing the kinds of measures that would reduce levels of systemic risk than his rivals (George Osborne? No, I think not, I really do).

What prevents Labour from claiming the credit is fear and history. Fear of calling the recovery too early, fear that it might be a false dawn. History, in that Norman Lamont's claim of 'green shoots' was so summarily shot to ribbons that you'd be hard pressed to find anyone willing to use the phrase without vast qualification.

And yet they need to start attempting to requisition the credit soon. If we are doing better than our rivals, Labour need to tell the public that before the Conservatives inherit an improving economy by default. Our task is to lay claim to having set the agenda for dealing with the economy and, if we succeed, we may stymie a Labour recovery whilst limiting Conservative gains.

Could a hung Parliament be our reward?...

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