This morning's Times tells us that Gordon Brown is "hoping to seize back the political agenda with a new focus on the economy". The Prime Minister will try to convince voters that the British economy is through the worst, and that it was a Labour Government that navigated the choppy waters. Alistair Darling, who is hosting the meeting in London of the Group of 20 finance ministers, will try to ensure greater international co-operation in response to the banking crisis.
The trouble is that this morning we also heard that the CIPS/Markit survey of purchasing managers in manufacturing, known as the PMI Index, fell from 50.8 to 49.7 in August – below the 50 mark which registers stability. Moreover, July’s figure was revised downwards to 50.2, reflecting efforts to cut costs and pare staff.
But then the Bank of England reported that outstanding loans to companies and individuals both declined at a record pace in July, in a worrying sign for the prospects of economic recovery. So perhaps this calls for more concerted effort from all parties at the G20 meeting?
No. Expect two fingers to any such proposal from the Germans, who have managed to keep their budget deficits in check and turned back to economic growth. Better still, while the British and Americans talk about spotting distant green shoots but facing years of high unemployment, the Germans have not only emerged from recession in the last quarter, but have also seen a fall in seasonally-adjusted unemployment, albeit by only 1,000 to 3.48m in August, but that followed a 5,000 fall in July.
Take that, Jonny Englander.