By Matthew Barrett
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The Office for National Statistics has just released the GDP figures for the last quarter: 0.5% growth. "Some growth but not very strong growth", says the ONS' chief statistician, Joe Grice. It's better than the 0.1% growth of the previous quarter, and better than the 0.3% or 0.4% that City analysts were predicting, but the government has no cause to celebrate – construction is down 0.6% and PMI figures for manufacturing are down at 47.4 – a 28-month low.
Some political lessons: firstly, the riots during the last part of the summer failed to halt economic growth. Secondly, neither party (or Plan A vs Plan B, perhaps) scores a victory from this outcome. The Coalition line will be similar to "these figures show the economy is on the right track", "it's vital we don't deviate from the government's deficit reduction strategy", and so on. Labour, on the other hand, will focus on construction and manufacturing figures and say 0.5% growth isn't good enough. Ed Balls may revisit his "it's hurting, but it's not working" line. Naturally, Labour will urge a "Plan B".
The Chancellor, George Osborne, cannot be complacent, and should not boast about these figures too much. In his Autumn Statement, he needs to outline more radical economic policies in order to get true, tangible growth, rather than minimal, margin-of-error growth. Tim Montgomerie set out a more radical agenda on Majority Conservatism yesterday.