One BBC correspondent tells us that ‘The Office of National Statistics (ONS) released two important sets of data today. The headlines have been grabbed by the better-than-expected GDP numbers and I have no doubt that growth will feature heavily in the political battle of the next few weeks.’
The rising GDP figures did make the headlines….here’s the Telegraph’s...‘UK economy grew at fastest rate for nine years in 2014’ and its opening paragraph…
The British economy grew at its fastest pace for nine years in 2014 as GDP figures showed the economy expanded by a stronger than expected 2.8pc last year, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Quarterly expansion came in at 0.6pc in the last three months of 2014, leading to overall yearly growth reaching the same levels as before the financial crisis in 2006.
The BBC’s headline…‘Election 2015: Parties in battle over living standards’……in other words the BBC chose to frame this story from a Labour perspective, on Labour’s chosen field of battle…Living standards….and ignores the GDP figures almost completely.
Here’s the BBC’s opener…
The Conservatives and Lib Dems have heralded pre-election figures showing rising household incomes as proof that their economic strategy is working.
Disposable incomes per head were 0.2% higher at the end of 2014 than when the government came to power in May 2010.
The BBC saying ‘Yep, incomes are up….but oh so minisculely….only 0.2% more than in 2010’. …or as Robert Peston says….‘Now let’s be clear about this. That is basically a sneeze higher. It is trivial. It’s loose change at the bottom of your purse. But it is higher.’ It takes the BBC half the report before they get to the eyecatching GDP figures and then this was the sole comment…‘It came as figures for economic growth in 2014 were revised upwards to 2.8% and separate indicators suggested economic confidence was at a 12-year high.‘
That’s it, no more to see here, move along says the BBC…..no mention of the economy growing the fastest it has for over 9 years…might be important when talking about ‘living standards’ perhaps.
It’s interesting the BBC starts the report by saying ‘The Conservatives and Lib Dems have heralded pre-election figures‘ rather than reporting that ‘The Office of National Statistics says…..’...kind of makes it look like the BBC is trying to say the Coalition is hyping the figures.
Peston also says...’It has been a recovery much slower than in any recession since 1945, but it is now reasonable to say that living standards are back to where they were at the time of the last election.’
He does the usual BBC thing as another BBC correspondent does...’taking five years to recover standards of living is a very slow recovery’ missing out the very important context for that…..from the BBC’s favourite economics guru, Paul Johnson of the IFS…..
In fairness we should remind ourselves of the scale of the task the Government took on. The deficit (that is, the amount the Government spends in a year minus the amount it raises) reached £157 billion in 2009/10 as a result of the deepest recession in around 100 years. It is still hovering around £100 billion this year.
Yes…..hard to forget ‘the deepest recession in around 100 years’ surely? Maybe that’s why it took so much more time to get over it. Important no?…especially when they quote Balls saying …‘ speaking at a campaign event in Swindon, said Conservatives were “telling people you have never had it so good” despite it being the “slowest recovery for 100 years”.’
Why quote one and not the other? They are linked.
Peston goes on to say…‘The politically resonant number published today is that real household disposable income per head on 31 December 2014 was 0.19% higher than it was at the end of May 2010.’
So the ‘politically resonant figure’ is…‘household disposable income’.…why then does the BBC continue to quote Labour’s £1600 fall in income figure rather than the Tory £900 rise in income….it is the Tory figure that is based upon disposable income after all…or as the BBC dismissively puts it…‘Mr Osborne’s favourite measure of standards of living: Real Household Disposable Income (RHDI) per capita.’ Labour base their figure on ‘real wages’ that doesn’t take into account how much cash actually ends up in a person’s hand at the end of the week including all income from other sources such as tax credits and welfare and is therefore not a true indicator of people’s income and not an indicator of their living standards.
The BBC trying its best to downplay any ‘good news’ that might make the Government’s economic policies look successful….whilst neglecting to challenge Labour claims in the same ‘ridiculous’ way.