An election that really matters

Millennium wheel

The conventional view among my media colleagues, who are these days often called the commentariat, is that the general election has been dull, the parties' campaigns mediocre and the choice one of Hobson's.

I could not disagree more.

Naturally, wearing my economic editor's hat, I can be sad that there hasn't been more explicit debate on the wealth-creating imperatives of boosting lacklustre productivity, reducing record personal debts and re-engineering our corporate sector to cope with the Ubers and the indomitable new sharing economy.

But the issues that are on the table are huge, arguably the most important of my political lifetime.

The choice between whether to have a referendum on membership of the European Union (EU) - offered by Tories and UKIP, declined by Labour, LibDem and SNP - is massive.

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How vulnerable would new UK government be to Grexit?

Greece

For all the hour-by-hour reports that talks between Greece and its eurozone creditors are going better (as is said to be the case today) or worse, the working assumption in the UK government (in its dying days) is that Greece will leave the euro.

Why?

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Has Miliband said a proper sorry?

Ed Miliband

This morning on the Today programme, Ed Miliband prayed in aid Sir Nick Macpherson when repeating his view that the big economic mistake of the last Labour government was a failure to regulate the banks properly, rather than to spend too much.

Sir Nick is the Treasury's permanent secretary, the second most powerful civil servant in the land and the person on whom George Osborne as chancellor relies most for fiscal counsel and the execution of his policies.

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Did Labour over-spend?

Ed Miliband

Members of the Question Time audience became conspicuously grumpy when Ed Miliband said the last Labour government did not over-spend.

So who was right - them or the Labour leader?

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Should Tories put the chancellor in straitjacket?

  • 29 April 2015
  • From the section Business
George Osborne and David Cameron

In most British people's minds, the Great Crash and Recession of 2008 probably feels like yesterday - the defining economic shock of our age, we continue to live with its noxious effects.

But the Tories and Labour are today behaving as if the risk of another such shock in the current parliament is nil, because in different ways they've both limited their room to offset the impact of one.

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Little growth without shoppers

  • 28 April 2015
  • From the section Business
restaurant
The services sector, which includes restaurants, has underpinned economic growth in the UK this year

So before any of you get too gloomy, the recovery is not over.

GDP, or national income, increased at an annual rate of 2.4% in the first three months of the year, which looks pretty good by international standards - and is only a touch slower than the 2.5% forecast for this year made in the Budget by the government's official forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility.

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The huge choice for voters

  • 23 April 2015
  • From the section Business
Polling station

The economic choice confronting voters is the starkest since 1992. That is the assessment of the Institute for Fiscal Studies of the main parties' deficit reduction plans.

The best way of seeing this choice is that, if the Tories and Labour deliver their plans, the national debt by 2020 would be £90bn lower in today's money under the Conservatives, but cuts to so-called unprotected government departments would be just £1bn under Labour compared with £30bn under the Tories.

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Why SNP matters to whole of UK

  • 20 April 2015
  • From the section Business
Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond campaigning

John Swinney, the SNP's deputy First Minister of Scotland, told the Today programme this morning that the heart of its manifesto - due out later today - would be to end austerity in the UK as a whole, and would support Labour to bring that about.

This may sound great for Labour and Ed Miliband. But it is in fact pretty much his worst nightmare.

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Why aren't UK pay rises delivering votes to Cameron?

  • 17 April 2015
  • From the section Business
David Cameron

David Cameron may look at today's stats on unemployment and wonder why on earth his party is only neck and neck with Labour in the opinion polls, and not benefiting from record employment levels and a significant rise in inflation-adjusted pay (before tax and benefits).

Probably the most interesting stat for me was that regular pay - excluding bonuses - saw a 2.2% increase in February and a 1.8% rise in the three months to Feb. And for the first time since serious records began, that headline rise is the real rise - because CPI inflation is 0%.

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How serious for us is the Greek tragedy?

  • 16 April 2015
  • From the section Business
Tragic masks, detail from a mosaic of the Triumph of Dionysus uncovered in Daphne, Antioch, Turkey. Roman Civilisation, 2nd to 3rd century.

There is something a bit too deja-vu-ish about this election campaign, especially the tragic Greek economic backdrop.

Just like five years ago, Greece is on the brink of default. But 2015 is very different from 2010 in one important respect: other eurozone countries and the IMF are signalling they won't be panicked into rushing through another bailout.

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