Westminster has felt rather muted over the past few weeks: it may well continue to do so today, but for good reasons. That the first estimate of Q1 GDP figures recorded growth of 0.3 per cent means Labour spinners have to work much harder on falls in certain sectors in order to get their points across, and that George Osborne and David Cameron can relax, knowing they’ve just been gifted more good feeling in their party until at least the local elections. After the building tension over today’s figures came a really rather good anti-climax.
This means that the spotlight remains on Labour, and not the Conservative party. Len McCluskey’s intervention yesterday – slapped down by Ed Miliband as ‘reprehensible’ – is just one of a number of cracks appearing in the party’s unity. That the Coalition has avoided the triple-dip means Labour now comes under pressure to find a new strategy which isn’t merely predicated on things going badly for the government. They did last year, with a bad budget, bad economic figures, and many, many U-turns. And Labour naturally milked that. But now the party needs to decide how to attack the government in a more sophisticated way, while resolving its own growing rifts over key policy areas.
Of course, as we’re always reminding Coffee Housers, the first estimate of GDP is more important politically than it is as a totally reliable snapshot of the economy. Revisions of these figures may produce a very different picture. And in political terms, what Downing Street strategists worry is that voters will cast their vote based on stagnating living standards, not the latest ONS announcement.