26 Jan 2010

Darling’s softly softly tactics

I was with the Chancellor in the Treasury in October 2008 when the UK registered its first negative GDP figure for a decade and a half, signalling the start of the recession.

And I earlier I was interviewing the Chancellor at number 11 as the UK limps unconvincingly out of its Great Recession.

At the Treasury they are adamant that they have communicated a ‘cautious’ line pretty consistently. The flaccid 0.1 per cent figure was not a surprise they say, some had been privately expecting flat

When pushed on why on earth it is the UK that has the longest, deepest recession and the tamest post recession growth, the Chancellor blamed the size of the UK financial sector.

He did acknowledge the unflattering comparison with other economies: ‘It’s taken us longer to come out of recession’ he told me.

But he pointed to other measures of the economy: ‘unemployment is a lot less than America… there are grounds for being confident’.

Above all it seemed to reinforce the rhetoric and the arguments, that he has seemed to play down in recent weeks, in favour of a softly softly approach to the deficit.

‘I’ve always that we need to start to reduce by 2011 when recovery is established – today’s figures show the sheer folly of starting to cut away significant government support just at the time when growth has return albeit modestly – the Tory approach’.