… and Darling admits that economic forecasts were wrong
[International thread is below this one – many thanks.]
So, after all the excitement of the G20 and Brown enjoying his key role at the summit and rubbing shoulders with world leaders, it’s back down to earth, and domestic politics, with a bump. It now looks as though any benefits that the PM gained from this week may be fleeting and minor.
Not only did last night’s YouGov poll only give Labour a three-point bounce, but there’s more embarrassment on the expenses front from the Mail on Sunday, this time provided by Geoff Hoon, who “claimed expenses on his constituency house and rented out his London home – while living… in a grace-and-favour apartment in Whitehall”. Is there going to be a steady drip-drip of expenses scandals all the way to the election in the same way that sleaze dogged the Tories in the runup to 1997, or can Labour lance this boil?
As well as this, there’s bad news on the economic front, as Darling admits in an interview with the Sunday Times that the UK economy will decline by at least 3% this year – the worst result since 1945 and three times as bad as the rate forecasted in November’s Pre-Budget Report. The Chancellor will also warn in the Budget on 22 April that the economy is not expected to start growing again until the end of this year.
Meanwhile, Brown has refused to speculate about when he might call an election, saying that the economy is his “first priority”: “I am not going to get into talk about dates. Our first priority is jobs, it’s homes and it’s businesses.”
So, at the end of an undoubtedly momentous week, I wonder whether the PM is in domestic political terms no stronger than when he entered it, and perhaps arguably weaker in the long term, with the G20 gains being wiped out by more ministerial expenses revelations, and the Chancellor’s confirmation on the economy of what many had suspected, with the downward revision of the figures.
Add these in to the mix, stir in Brown’s interview today, and for my money at least, you can pencil in May 6th 2010 as the election date – there may well be a flurry of speculation on October but I just don’t think things will be good enough to risk an election. Anyway, Populus is expected tomorrow so we’ll see whether it continues the “small bounce” narrative from YouGov.