At the end of last year I wrote a piece saying I thought there were four “known unknowns” that might change the political picture before the election campaign. The first was Labour’s final chance to change their leader in January – as we’ve seen, there was an attempt by Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt to force Brown out, but it fell flat and does not appear to have had any lasting effect upon the polls.

The second was the end of the recession and, as expected, this morning’s economic figures show Britain’s economy is officially growing again. So, what impact will this have on the polls and will it produce any sort of Labour recovery?

Polls asking if people are more likely to vote Labour if the economy recovers don’t predict any significant advance – but I wouldn’t take them as a particularly good indicator anyway. If Labour do recover on the back of the economic good news I suspect it won’t be on the back of a direct conscious calculation that they have done well and deserve support (we saw with ICM’s poll for Channel 4 yesterday that a relatively small proportion of people attribute the recover to government action). Rather it will be a more subconscious increase in optimism and the “feel good factor”, leading people to think better of the way the country is going and more likely to back the government.

That said, it’s not actually a given that it will be a positive for the government. In ICM’s marginals poll last weekend we saw that one area where Gordon Brown still had much better ratings than David Cameron was handling a crisis. Populus’s poll this month asked a pair of questions they’ve used several times since the credit crunch – asking who would make the best Prime Minister “right now, to deal with Britain’s economy in recession” and who would make the best Prime Minister going forward after the election – Cameron’s lead over Brown was 11 points on the first question, but 17% on the latter. If Gordon Brown is actually still benefitting by being seen as the best man to lead the country in an economic crisis, the passing of that crisis could, perversely, be a negative for him.

We shall see when the first post-recession polls begin arriving.

52 Responses to “The end of the recession”

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  1. I have two points to make:

    1. On the Chilcot inquiry helping the Libdems – it wont. Or at least not much. The war happened 7 years ago – people who wanted to change their votes over that did so a long time ago.

    2. I don’t think it is altogether accurate to say people have already made up their minds. A common response I get on the doorsteps (in East Renfrewshire) is “haven’t decided yet” or “haven’t thought about it”. A lot of people have not made up their minds – we have to remember that most people are not politicos like us.

  2. The statistics people are meant to be neutral, and I didn’t like the way they announced these figures, hypping them up with a countdown.

    My personal impression is that this very slight recovery is almost worse for the Government’s image than no recovery. It has the same feeling as a company that just about manaages to report a profit. Everybody knows the Directors of a such a company has done things to get the figures into the black, and as people have pointed out the Government has been doing all sorts of things, such as “quantitative easing” (which is just a fancy way of saying “borrowing lot’s of money” ) to get the figures right in early 2010. Annd even then they have only just succeeded.

    Two major points:-
    1. Why couldn’t the UK get out of recession until after the other major economies? Because the civil servants and financiers, as well as the Government, have been incompetent in this country for many years. Some retired senior servants are at last coming to and telling us. But some people, such as the historian Correlli Barnett, were pointing out this mismanagement years ago.
    2. Any economy ought to be growing, firstly because of technical and business innovation and secondly because wealth should increase as capital investment brings returns that can be recycled. It was once reckoned that these factors together should yield growth of the order of four per cent a year. It is manifest that the UK has not achieved the growth it should have done as a result of innovation and reinvestment for many years, and the recent recession/depression just takes this appalling disgrace to new depths.

    And the Uk’s economic management is hardly good when there are chronically over a million unemployed, and currently well over two million officially unemployed.

    Both the Tories and Labour have failed along the lines indicated in my last two paragraphs, using liberal economic and political philosophy, so the LibDems are implicated too. Is it any wonder that the Other vote is climbing?

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