It was difficult to know whether Jeremy Hunt believed his own story as he responded to confirmation last week that the UK economy tumbled into recession in the final quarter of last year.

He appeared as cheerful and pleased with himself as ever – a demeanour which always seems somewhat incongruous given the misery that the Conservatives’ dire policies and big economic errors have brought for so many households and businesses.

And he declared the Tory plan was “working”.

If this is it working, one wonders what things would look like if it was not. Then again, given the Tories’ poor priorities, maybe things would look better if the plan was not working.

Figures published last week by the Office for National Statistics confirmed UK gross domestic product fell by 0.3% in the final three months of last year. Technical recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of contraction.

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This was not enough to wipe the smile off Mr Hunt’s face.

The Chancellor seemed quick to divert attention elsewhere – preferring to focus on Tory childcare plans and trying to make some political capital out of this.

He also appeared a little chuffed about the UK economy growing by 0.1% over 2023 as a whole. Yes, 0.1%.

Mr Hunt said: "I don't think any of us were expecting the economy to actually grow last year. The Bank of England wasn't, the Office for Budget Responsibility wasn't.

"In fact it did, albeit at a very slow rate. And that is a testament to the resilience of the economy but also the fact the Government took some very difficult decisions early on to make sure we got the economy back on track."

Mr Hunt did not mention the projections for UK growth this year, now that the economy is supposedly, well according to him anyway, “back on track”.

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The International Monetary Fund forecasts the UK economy will in 2024 record the second-weakest growth among the Group of Seven leading industrialised nations.

So it is perhaps no surprise that Mr Hunt is not shouting about the projections for the UK economy.

The UK is expected by the IMF to expand by just 0.6% in 2024, marginally ahead of the 0.5% growth forecast for Germany.

France is forecast by the IMF to grow by 1% this year. The US is projected by the IMF to expand by 2.1% in 2024.


The independent Office for Budget Responsibility last month predicted UK growth of 0.8% this year, but this is hardly something to cheer about either.

Mr Hunt, as recession was confirmed last week, attempted once again to claim credit for the Tories for the fall in UK inflation.

This is an incredibly tall tale, but one the Conservatives, it seems, never tire of repeating.

The reality is that the Tories drove up inflation with their hard Brexit and failure to keep a lid on electricity and gas prices for households.

Annual UK consumer prices index inflation surged to a 41-year high of 11.1% in October 2022.

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Yes, there were some global factors at play, but the UK also had its own very peculiar inflation woe.

Given base-year effects, it was inevitable inflation would fall sharply.

It is worth emphasising again that the fall in inflation means that consumer prices are continuing to rise at a significant clip, albeit not as fast as the dizzying increases seen in recent times, and that the excruciating hike in the cost of living seen already is baked in.

And, of course, it is crucial that people realise monetary policy is conducted by the Bank of England and not the Conservative Government.

The Tories, of course, have responsibility for setting the target for annual UK CPI inflation for the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street.

However, this has been at 2% since long before the Conservatives came to power, so quite why Mr Hunt and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak are saying their Government has brought down inflation remains baffling. And that is even before we get to the Tories’ part in fuelling inflation.

Then again, politics is politics and economics is economics, and there is a General Election looming.

Given this context, it is easier to see why the ruling Conservatives, who have done such a dismal job on the economy since 2010, are desperately trying to spin a tale to show themselves in a better light.

A good example of this is Mr Sunak’s pledge in January 2023 to halve inflation. A plunge in inflation from its dizzying peaks was inevitable. So you can see why politicians might make a big song and dance about somehow making it fall, even though they have precious little to do with the drop, and then declare they have fulfilled their promise.

Mr Hunt, with a straight face, proclaimed last week: “The Prime Minister’s pledge last year was to halve inflation and he delivered on that. In fact, inflation has fallen from over 11% to 3.4%. Having done that, he then said we would grow the economy.”

This was the point at which the Chancellor then went on to make an overly big deal, surely, of the marginal economic growth over 2023 as a whole.

When Mr Sunak made his pledge in January 2023 to “grow the economy, creating better-paid jobs and opportunity right across the country”, people could surely have been forgiven for not realising the UK would tumble into recession by the end of the year.

The inflation fantasy never seems far from the Tories’ lips these days. It seems to have replaced the tall tale that Brexit was somehow going to boost the UK economy. Maybe the fact the Conservatives have gone rather quiet on Brexit indicates they have some understanding of economic reality after all, but who knows?