Boris Johnson’s government has got into the annoying habit of calling everything it does “world-beating”.
We’ve had “world-beating” PPE procurement (with hundreds of millions spent on equipment that can’t be used).
There was a “world-beating” Covid-19 track and trace app (that failed utterly and has been withdrawn).
Its replacement was also a “world-beating” privatised track and trace system (that has been scaled down in ignominious failure).
Now, at long last, it seems Johnson has a couple of statistics that he can genuinely describe as “world-beating”.
Are you ready?
The UK is now in the deepest economic recession it has ever recorded, and the worst of all the G7 countries.
The UK’s Covid-19 death rates is the worst in the world.
The two are linked, of course, by Johnson’s failure to engage with the threat of Covid-19 when he was warned about it in November 2019; if he had taken appropriate steps, bringing in the equipment needed to treat the disease well in advance of the need to use it and locking down the country hard for the few weeks that would have been necessary to control the outbreak in the UK and stop infected people from bringing it in from outside, fewer people would have died and the economy would have recovered by now. Look at New Zealand for evidence of that.
It makes Johnson’s words at the start of the year ring hollow:
This is going to be a fantastic year for Britain. pic.twitter.com/dLQUVauCKg
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) January 2, 2020
Remember: when he tweeted this, he had already been warned about Covid-19 and had ignored those warnings.
Now – well, let’s look at the information:
Johnson has guided the UK into the deepest recession since records began. The Office for National Statistics said gross domestic product (GDP), the broadest measure of economic prosperity, fell in the second quarter by 20.4 per cent compared with the previous three months – the biggest quarterly decline since comparable records began in 1955.
Oh – and GDP had declined by 2.2 per cent in the first quarter, so this represents a decline followed by a plummet.
The economic calamity was more than double the 10.6 per cent fall in the US over the same period and also surpassed declines in France, Germany and Italy among G7 nations that have reported second-quarter figures so far. Canada and Japan have yet to publish second-quarter data but are not expected to record greater falls than Britain. “World-beating”?
Looking at the details, the services sector, including hotels, restaurants and finance, recorded a 19.9 per cent drop, and production (manufacturing, mining and energy) fell by 16.9 per cent.
Despite having been kept open by Johnson, construction fell by a whopping 35 per cent.
Spending – by households and businesses – declined by a quarter because people simply didn’t have the money. It’s interesting to note that spending fell by five per cent more than income for those who had been furloughed.
The Guardian‘s report seems to lay the blame on Johnson:
After resisting the launch of lockdown controls until later than other countries around the world and relaxing them at a slower pace, the ONS said the UK had plunged into the deepest decline of any G7 nation in the second quarter.
And other commentators aren’t holding back, either:
Here it is in chart form.
The UK's 20.4% contraction in GDP (that bar on the far right hand side) compared with every other quarterly GDP growth number back to 1920.
We've never seen anything like this. pic.twitter.com/yf4p6jUkUL
— Ed Conway (@EdConwaySky) August 12, 2020
The figures show that GDP has fallen to 2003 levels – 17 years lost due to Tory incompetence.
The good news is that the recession is likely to be the shortest in history, as economic activity has picked up since June, when Johnson began to allow businesses to reopen.
The bad news is that there are predictions of a new wave of coronavirus infections and deaths – already the numbers are worsening:
UK coronavirus death toll jumps by 102 and cases rise by more than 1,000 again – Mirror Onlinehttps://t.co/4XXbXbTADr
— Samuel Miller (@Hephaestus7) August 11, 2020
So the recovery may be extremely short-lived.
And don’t forget that in four-and-a-half months the full effect of Brexit will hit the UK, when the country will impose on itself the equivalent of enormous economic sanctions because racists like Boris Johnson lied to us that foreigners were interfering in our lives:
The U.K. is now officially in recession. In four and a half months, we become the first country in history to impose economic sanctions on itself. ‘World-beating’ doesn’t come close.
— James O'Brien (@mrjamesob) August 12, 2020
No doubt the collapse that results in 2021 will be “world-beating” too.
Given all of the above, I can only echo the words of Peter Stefanovic:
Is it any wonder Boris Johnson is trying to distract us by pointing his finger at desperate migrants in dinghies?
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