Economists are often accused of using statistics in much the same way that a drunkard uses a lamppost – more for support than illumination. And it may very well be that the latest numbers from the Office for National Statistics, indicating that the UK is “officially” back in recession – are used more in the foggy war of day-to-day political combat than they are in calmly and coolly analysing what the government might do to actually nurse the economy back to health.
Certainly, the coalition now seems to meekly accept that it is at the mercy of events rather than being the master of them. Danny Alexander grimly told the BBC on Wednesday night that the government had no magic wand to wave to solve the problems in the British economy, as if this somehow absolved him of responsibility. But nobody is expecting magic. We don’t want conjuring tricks. We are simply expecting some hard-headed, bold and radical initiatives, combined with a recognition that a half-hearted effort to get the public finances under control over the next five years or so is not the only tool at their disposal.
The first priority must be a reduction in public spending, not just sticking to “Plan A” but redoubl