As UK economy continues to falter, we need a plan and a leader full of ideas and energy – Scotsman comment

As new figures showed the UK economy flatlined in the last three months of 2022, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt warned the country was “not out of the woods yet”.

However, although Hunt’s assessment of the economic geography was correct, he has yet to demonstrate he knows how to lead us into greener pastures. According to an International Monetary Fund forecast, the UK will be the only major industrialised country whose economy contracts this year.

There are, obviously, a myriad of reasons for this, but filtering out the common factors – chiefly Covid and the energy crisis – and Brexit sticks out like a sore thumb. Goods exports crashed the world over during the pandemic, but while those of advanced economies like the US, EU and Japan bounced back, the UK’s have struggled.

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The disastrous Liz Truss, previously a Remainer but now a Brexiteer possessed with the zeal of a convert, and fellow-traveller Kwasi Kwarteng have thankfully been replaced as Prime Minister and Chancellor by significantly more pragmatic Rishi Sunak and Hunt. However, they are still required to pander to Brexiteer mythology or risk a return to the chaos of the Theresa May era.

The Spring Budget will be the next opportunity for Hunt to spell out a workable plan to get the UK out of its troubles, but so far there seems little sign he will abandon the current bland managerial style of government. The lack of an overarching economic philosophy that spells out what Britain is all about – as achieved under Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair – suggests the government hopes to muddle through until some good news eventually shows up.

With the next general election possibly two years away, that’s an over-long time for the country to drift somewhat aimlessly. The inexplicably re-emerging Truss faction may sense an opportunity.

The other alternative, Keir Starmer’s Labour, also has much work to do to convince voters they are ready for government. The Scotsman praised his party conference speech last year for offering fresh hope, but since then little work appears to have been done to fill in the details.

As the world’s strongest economies recover, the UK is being left behind. It desperately needs a dynamic leader with the energy and ideas to return us to the fold.



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