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Did David Cameron break an embargo on GDP figures?

24 October 2012

Last week David Cameron found himself in trouble after Prime Minister’s Questions over a slip of the tongue about energy bills: this week he’s managed to get himself into trouble over what looks like yet another slip of the tongue at PMQs. The Prime Minster appeared to suggest that tomorrow’s GDP figures, which are under strict embargo, will be good news for the government.

The heat was on for Cameron, as Ed Miliband was performing reasonably well, with some good jokes (including ‘I asked him a question about the railways – I have to say the Chancellor shouts, it’s not the ticket that needs upgrading, it’s the Chancellor of the Exchequer’). So when Miliband told the chamber that the Prime Minister’s ‘crimson tide’ was back and that blame for the ‘shambles of his government’ went ‘right to the top’, Cameron snapped:

‘It’s only a bad week if you think it’s bad that unemployment’s coming down, it’s only a bad week if you regret inflation coming down… every piece of good news sends that team into a complete decline, well, I can tell him, the good news will keep on coming.’

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Labour is now, unsurprisingly, pushing the line that this was a leak of the ONS’ figures. After the Prime Minister had legged it out of the Commons, party sources said:

‘It’s not only shambolic, but wrong for the Prime Minister to hint at tomorrow’s growth figures before they are officially published.’

Number 10 wouldn’t confirm that the Prime Minister is one of the people who saw the GDP figures in advance, although the Chancellor is on that list, and the Prime Minister does have the option to see them, too. The Downing Street line is that Cameron was referring to previous good news, rather than breaking an embargo.  Cameron could well have been simply taunting Ed Miliband that his team will continue to struggle as the government gets on top of important problems. He didn’t refer to any figures at all in his exchanges, which makes it difficult to allege that he broke an embargo when he’s only dropped a vague hint. But as Jonathan Portes points out on his blog, it’s the perception that matters to the markets, and the PM is already well aware of his own rather loose tongue when it comes to secret information.

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Show comments
  • Lightf33t

    While this 1% growth is pathetic, you have to ask yourself – how would Labour beat that?

    Employing thousands of diversity chiefs and social workers does not a good economy make!

  • John Birch

    It’s a bit rich Labour complaining about leaking data under embargo when they used to ignore such embargoes on a near daily basis – and not just vague hints either!

  • ButcombeMan

    Isabel (and Fraser).

    I do not want to be unkind but this place needs rescuing.

    Have you noticed how many of your posts here are regarded as uttely trivial.

    Have you noticed how many of your fairly well informed audience, think that?

    I have no idea how you are qualified for the position of producing most of the articles here.

    The qualifications do not show, the quality is just not there.

    This article is yet another, on which it is not worth wasting energy.

  • DavidDP

    So, after the scandal of man buys ticket upgrade, we now have the scandal of “PM says things will continue to get better under his government.”
    [Gives up completely on UK journalists]

  • Torontory

    In answer to your headline question – No.

  • Mynydd

    You always know how deep Mr Cameron puts his foot in, by the number of post saying he didn’t, compared to those who say he did. Today he is up to his knee.

  • Duke of Earl

    Pretty ridiculous post Isabel. I heard Cameron mention inflation and unemployment only. Figures that have already been released. The sector figures for July and August are out as well.
    Stop being a Labour stooge.

  • Les

    Listen love, I know you have a column to fill but I don’t recall the PM mentioning any figures – only yesterday Alistair Heath hinted along the same line and other ‘economists’ in recent days!

    No doubt if the figures are good it will be put down to the Olympic effect wrongly so IMO

  • ToryOAP

    Good news on the economy is bad news for labour and especially Balls and Milliband. Cameron was within his remit to say what he did and no rules were broken. And for the love of Christ, please stop referencing labour-luvvie Jonathan Portes – he has nothing to say and keeps on saying it.

    • james102

      Good news is an increase in per capita GDP not GDP.China’s GDP is much higher but average income is about £3k.

  • toco10

    Labour is of course praying for bad GDP figures and will seek to diminish any good news for the UK for unpatriotic and purely selfish reasons.I listened to David Cameron’s reference and it seemed pretty innocuous and simply reminded Red Ed Miliband that the Government was concentrating on and getting the big issues right whereas Labour preferred to concentrate on trivia which clearly they find easier to comprehend.

  • HooksLaw

    Oh please – what a waste of pixels. What Cameron said is totally true and indeed is what all the economic bodies are predicting. Only labour would consider shooting the messenger when it brings good news.
    Only a self obsessive news media desperate to put itself in the news would give the story legs.

    • telemachus

      Goes to ongoing omnishambles
      Today prisoner votes without checking with his law officer
      And this breaking an economic golden rule on market sensitive information
      He needs CBT

  • Russell

    Miliband and Labour are pathetic, scrabbling about with meaningless sniping. I only wish Cameron had retorted that Osborne had no row, paid to upgrade and was relaxed about being identified with first class whereas Miliband was caught pretending to be in 2nd class by removing the 1st class seat head cover for photo opportunity!

  • Ellan_Vannin

    If you think that GDP figure has been “leaked” tell me what it is

    • George_Arseborne

      Errr!!!!! 0.7%? It does not matter anyway. Plebs do not care about GDP any more because it has no impact on their squeeze living standard. The question is this a blip? Next quarter we will babe back in recession. Oh blame the winter snow. Osborne and Cameron are failure

      • dalai guevara

        You beat me to it.

        It is evident that an
        expected report of growth of 0.7% is offset by the devaluation of
        the sterling thru’ repeated QE. In fact, the sterling has dropped more
        than 20% towards the Dollar or the Euro, 25% towards the Real, 37%
        towards the Yuan etc. over the last five years.

        How can reported growth in a now fiat currency mean anything good for
        those who rely on drawing their pension abroad or even attempting to
        buy property there? And for those who are still here, as a net importing
        nation with a humongous trade deficit, further devaluation will further
        increase prices on imports, energy, cars, rail etc.

        Not a well thought through strategy in my book.

        • DavidDP

          “those who rely on drawing their pension abroad or even attempting to buy property there”
          Sorry, are we meant to be heartbroken for people wealthy enough to buy property in another country? Things may be difficult for them, but, frankly, they can’t be in too bad a position if they could contemplate doing that.
          Devaluation of sterling isn’t a bad thing if it helps with competitiveness, and there is some implication that it is (for example, car manufacturing reaching highs), etc. and of course it’s meant we’ve avoided a lot of what’s ailed the Eurozone countries unable to devalue.
          It’s like interest rates. Low and high rates have benefits and drawbacks that apply differently depending on the circumstances. At this time, low interest rates and low currency values aren’t too problematic given the overall economic picture.

          • dalai guevara

            I thought I presented a balanced analysis when also referring to ‘those who live here’. It’s a loose loose scenario for both.

            Competitiveness can be incresed by devaluation, but is it? How is it measured? How are the exports going in relation to our imports?

  • peterbuss

    Isobel – hardly a hanging offence surely. A quarter ago but the Chancellor and PM signalled as loudly as they could that the growth figures would be tricky before they came out and nobody went beserk.This is all so trivial.

    • Dimoto

      I see that the “newly rehabilitated” crim McBride has been mouthing off on this.
      Nothing has changed, “Labour” is the same gang, trading in the same sleaze as before.The moron has been shed, for appearances sake, but other than that, exactly the same old Brownite cabal.
      And the Labour party (and media) just sits there supine, sucking it up.

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