More bad news for Brown in the Sundays
2009 now very much has the feel of 1996 – a government holding onto power in the hopes that “something will turn up”, but now looking increasingly likely that they will, like John Major’s Conservatives, be boxed in all the way to a May 2010 election which they will lose heavily.
Kicking off the bleak news for the government this weekend was of course Friday morning’s announcement that the UK economy is now officially in recession for the first time since 1991, with Q4 2008 showing a 1.5% fall in GDP – the biggest quarter-on-quarter decline since 1980. Sterling has hit levels against the dollar not seen since the mid-1980s, and an article on CoffeeHouse puts matters into perspective, quoting a CitiGroup expert who predicts a 3.5% fall in output in 2009 – â€œTo put that in context, no G7 country has recorded a GDP decline of more than 3% in any year during the last 50 years.”
Added to this dire economic backdrop, the stories in the Sunday papers as expected are pretty uniformly bad for the government. The Independent on Sunday raises the prospect of the return of the three-day week: “Major firms such as JCB have already downed tools for one day a week and are considering moving to a three-day week, with state help, if the recession gets worse. Ministerial sources insisted last night that a scheme to help compensate workers was “not imminent” but said it was an option being discussed.” Meanwhile, the Mail leads on the Knees-up at the Treasury: “Whitehall mandarins in charge of saving Britain from the economic slump drank whisky and danced the night away at the Treasury on the day the recession was officially confirmed”.
Away from economic news, there’s embarrassment for David Miliband, whose political stock continues to tumble, as it emerged that Peter Mandelson had to smooth over a diplomatic rift with India caused by the Foreign Secretary after he linked the Mumbai attacks to the dispute over Kashmir. As the Independent puts it: “The disclosure that Lord Mandelson came to the rescue… will deepen Mr Miliband’s embarrassment. It left the impression of the Cabinet veteran being forced to clean up after the mess left by his “novice” younger colleague in India”.
In the Observer, Andrew Rawnsley considers the return of Ken Clarke, and what it tells us about Cameron, for all Labour’s troubles:
“..The deeper signal is that the Tory leader remains surprisingly nervous about his prospects. Labour is presiding over a recession that some serious people expect to turn into the worst slump since the Second World War. The Conservative poll lead is stretching into double figures. And yet David Cameron still felt compelled to bring a former Tory chancellor out of retirement at the age of 68. A year out from the 1997 election, Tony Blair did not recall Denis Healey to the front bench..”