BEFORE the release of the UK GDP figures, one might have placed George Osborne, the Chancellor, close to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran, on a list of those least likely to embrace new age tendencies.

But one lives, one learns, one marvels.

By crying at Baroness Thatcher's funeral last week, the Chancellor showed he was in touch with his feelings and did not care who knew it. Yesterday, following news of 0.3% growth in the first quarter of the year, Mr Osborne pronounced the economy was "healing" and "making progress".

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Healing, crying, making progress: it can only be a matter of time before a job lot of crystals and dreamcatchers arrives at the Treasury.

The impression of a free thinker is misleading. Mr Osborne might be a new age Chancellor on the quiet, but otherwise he is punting the same old strategy. The recovery continues, for which many thanks, but it does so at a glacial pace. When it comes to hotels, restaurants, services in general and North Sea oil and gas, UK plc is doing better; but the sectors that would drive a major recovery, construction and manufacturing, remain in deep freeze.

If Mr Osborne considers this "healing" we can only be grateful he went into politics and not medicine. Still, it has not been an easy few weeks for the Chancellor. Both the IMF's chief economist, Olivier Blanchard, and its managing director, Christine Lagarde, have been delicately raising their eyebrows over the UK's low growth, with Mr Blanchard advising the Chancellor to take his foot off the austerity pedal. As Mr Blanchard pointed out, when growth is so low people become even more worried about the future and cut spending accordingly. Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, has similarly placed himself in the turning back group on austerity. While believing the policy is fundamentally right, he now thinks it has reached its limit.

Across the EU, and inevitably in those countries subjected to bailouts, the mood is one of reassessment. In Spain, where unemployment has reached a shameful 27%, the push for change has once again sent citizens on to the streets. But Mr Osborne is not for turning, and only the sunniest of optimists could see this changing any time soon. Having avoided a triple-dip recession, the Chancellor has bought his Government another breathing space, more time for more of the same.

How the Coalition continues to get away with this while the economic recovery fails to catch light is no mystery. If interest rates were higher the UK Government would have uproar on its hands too. Across the country the situation is one of families just about staying afloat, watching for that upward surge in interest rates that could capsize their lives.

The crisis in the eurozone has helped the Coalition immeasurably by allowing it to present its policies as the sane alternatives to economic anarchy. Never mind the detail is the mantra, discount the possibility of an alternative, just be grateful we are not as badly off as that lot over there.

This is not voodoo economics on the part of the Coalition – it is only too obvious what is going on – but milksop politics. Mr Osborne does not have the courage to change his convictions, even if he wanted to. And why should he when Labour is offering such marshmallow resistance?

Ed Miliband, leader of HM Opposition, has opposition problems of his own in the form of Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite. Mr McCluskey fears the Labour leader is being "seduced" by the Blairites in his Shadow Cabinet into offering voters nothing more than an "austerity-lite" programme by way of an alternative to the Osborne agenda. Names have been named, among them Scots MPs Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander.

Judging by the ferocity with which the leader's office turned on Mr McCluskey – calling his intervention "reprehensible" and "disloyal" – one might suspect the union leader has touched a nerve. As responses go it was a tad over the top, not least because Unite members have handed over £7 million to the party since 2010. There's gratitude for you, brothers and sisters. But then every Labour leadership has been united on one view: if in doubt about the way forward for the party, bash a union.

In the apparent absence of anything better to do, Labour is having a wobble on the economy, a process that began with Tony Blair urging the party to stay on the centre ground and not tack left into its "comfort zone" of tax and spend. The wobble looks set to continue all the way up to June 26, the day the Government announces its spending plans for 2015-16, and more likely beyond if Labour, as it is being urged to do in some quarters, declines to respond to the CPR by unveiling its own spending plans. No hostages to fortune is the cry; no backbone is what voters will suspect.

Both Labour and the Coalition are engaged in battles to bring the deficit down. Mr Osborne is concerned with the economic one, while Labour's deficit is of the political variety. Regardless of how many interviews given by Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, how many mentions of temporary freezes in VAT and boosts to housebuilding, the gap between what Labour says it will do and what the voters trust it to do remains the same. Voters do not look at Labour and think austerity-lite, as Mr McCluskey reckons. They look at Labour and remember deep-fried boom and full-fat bust.

While it will be a tough job to turn that view around before the next UK election, the party's reaction to the McCluskey intervention confirms it is simply not in the market for a radical alternative to the status quo. Not for Labour a grand, Obama-style investment and intervention plan that might frighten the voters. On the good ship Labour, as on the good ship Coalition, it is steady as she goes.

Meanwhile, back in reality Britain, the food banks are doing more than the real banks to lend a hand, the recovery is bumping along the bottom at best and the economy remains 2.6% below where it was five years ago. Not to worry. Hope is on the way. Next month, the IMF comes to town to look in detail at the UK's economy. At least the hotel sector will enjoy a boost.