Articles from New Statesman
Meeting our makers
| Thursday, January 24, 2013
In the early 1950s, Britain was an industrial giant. Today it is an industrial pygmy. Manufacturing was industry’s bedrock. In 1952 it produced a third of national output, employed 40% of the workforce, and made up a quarter of world manufacturing exports. Today manufacturing is just 12% of GDP, employs only 8% of the workforce, and sells 2% of the world’s manufacturing exports. The iconic names of industrial Britain are history: in their place is the service economy and supermarkets selling mainly imported goods. What happened? Was it inevitable? Does it matter?
Nicholas Comfort’s book is exactly what its title promises: a roll call of the dead and the dying. The broad outline of the story is well-known. Britain ended the SecondContinue reading...
Refreshed by his summer holiday, David Cameron vowed to “get Britain moving again”. A slew of kick-starting initiatives has followed, most of them the brainchild of his government’s one-man think tank, Vince Cable.
The figures are dire. After a tepid recovery from the collapse of 2008, the British economy has started shrinking again. Most forecasters expect a negative growth outcome for this year. The same is true of the eurozone.
What has gone wrong? In the spring of 2009 all the major economies, including Britain’s, were given a large fiscal and monetary stimulus. Then in June 2010 George Osborne, the Chancellor, entered the Treasury with a large dose of austerity. It is true that a correlation isn’t a cause, but could it beContinue reading...
Since its collapse in the autumn of 2008, the world economy has gone through three phases: a year or more of rapid decline; a bounce back in 2009-2010, which nevertheless did not amount to a full recovery; and a second, though so far much shallower, downturn this year.
The resulting damage over the past four years has been huge. The world economy contracted by 6 per cent between 2007 and 2009, and recovered 4 per cent. It is 10 per cent poorer than it would have been, had growth continued at the rate of 2007, and the pain is not yet over. Today, we are in the first stages of a second banking crisis. It may already be too late to avoid a “double dip”, but it may still be possible to avoid a triple dip. For this we need a robustContinue reading...
Alistair Darling's story of his time as Gordon Brown's Chancellor of the Exchequer is intriguingly titled Back from the Brink. There are many brinks in this book - the near-collapse of the British banking system and the world economy, for one. The relationship between Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, and Callum McCarthy, then chairman of the Financial Services Authority, is also said to have been "on the brink of collapse". But the brink that Darling is chiefly concerned with is his relationship with Gordon Brown. Frequently they contemplated divorce on the grounds of incompatibility, but soldiered on like an estranged couple, tied together by old loyalties.
The two were long-standing political allies, and Darling hadContinue reading...
The Osborne Ultimatum
The New Statesman
| Thursday, March 24, 2011
The ideas of two dead economists, David Ricardo and J M Keynes, are shaping the cuts debate. The coalition is in thrall to the former’s small-government agenda and says there is no alternative – but its plans aren’t working.
The course of deficit cutting has been set in stone and few expected that the Budget, announced on 23 March, would dislodge it. The purpose of this article is not to supply the facts and figures of the Chancellor’s policy failings – though these are plentiful – but to explain why his policy of slashing public spending cannot be expected to produce a robust recovery. To put it simply, it is based on false premises. This gives Labour an opportunity to wrest the intellectual initiative, but only if it can develop anContinue reading...