Eggs, Ed, and the Decline of the Political Party

By Oliver Ford

Ed Miliband’s rare entrance into the headlines last week may have been viewed as an achievement by the Labour leader (in what otherwise has seemed to have been a self-imposed media blackout over the summer) were it not for the fact that this feat was achieved as a result of being pelted with an egg by a disgruntled member of the public. The pictures of the incident, which inspired intermingling feelings of amusement, pity, and scorn, were only minutes after the event to be found on Twitter, posted and viewed by the politically detached and cynical British Generation Y. As well as providing amusement, however, Ed’s ‘egging’ also seems to be the perfect example of the huge and increasing divide between the major political parties and the public that has characterised British politics of the 21st century so far, a divide which threatens a terminal decline of the traditional party model in the UK.

On one level, the assault demonstrates the sheer contempt that much of the public now holds for the perceived ‘elitist’ and remote political class that dominates the leadership of both major political parties. This is particularly true of Ed Miliband, (being pelted whilst on a visit to a ‘typical’ London market, seemingly on a desperate mission to exhibit his affinity with the ‘average’ person) who, being born into an academic and political family, was sped through Oxbridge and into a job as a ‘researcher’ before rising to the top of the party that perversely claims to have the interests of the average working man at its heart. Of course, the same is also true of both David Cameron and Nick Clegg (as well as a multitude of other Cabinet members), both of whom have followed an unsurprisingly similar career path to that of Ed Miliband. This wholesale detachment of political parties and their leaders from the very public they claim to represent has resulted in a de-humanization of Britain’s political life – from Miliband’s elitist and careerist view, voters become ‘target demographics’ and people’s worries and fears become ‘issue trends’, Miliband himself never having experienced a life comparable to that of most of the electorate. This dehumanization then serves to alienate the political class more, with politicians retreating into their own worlds of spin doctors and polls – fuelling the public’s hostility to mainstream politics even further. The effects of this elitism and resultant disillusionment are easy to see, particularly with the electoral decline of the two major parties – the Labour and the Conservatives Party’s combined vote falling from 86% in 1945 to 65% in 2011. UKIP’s recent rise in this context can also be explained – with leader Nigel Farage’s personable and grounded persona, as well as more ordinary background (never having attended university) being a key factor in the party’s rise. The divide between an increasingly irate and detached public (demonstrated by Ed Miliband’s egging) and an increasingly isolated political class is therefore both a symptom and a cause of the decline of political parties in Britain; with the ‘distance’ between politicians and the public turning so many away from mainstream politics, a ‘distance’ which only increases as fewer and fewer ‘normal’ people have an input in the running of the major parties.

The perpetrator of the egging himself offers reasons for the decline of the political party. In stating that Labour ‘does nothing’ for the poor, Dean Porter is expressing an opinion that many in the country of different political views now hold – that the major parties have become too ideologically similar, and in many aspects are the same. In Dean Porter’s case, this probably means Miliband has not done enough reverse Labour’s right-ward lurch towards the political centre under Blair (Miliband’s early characterisation as a dangerous radical – ‘Red Ed’ – now seems cruelly ironic); similarly, the Conservative’s base of support has been left feeling alienated by many of Cameron’s liberal centrist policies such as the legalisation of gay marriage and maintenance of the international aid budget amidst widespread cuts. This convergence of policy and ideology at the centre of the political spectrum is a consequence of the elitism and detachment described before, with the secession of the country’s political leadership from the rest of society meaning that parties have drifted from their traditional bases of support, attempting to find a near mythical vote winning ‘centre ground’. This search for a neutral centre ground, seems, however to be self defeating, because in looking for this centre ground, parties become more and more alike, antagonising the public even more, losing votes, and so contributing to their own decline.

However, the merging of Britain’s political parties into an indistinguishable centrist mass (demonstrated well by Miliband’s directionless leadership of the Labour Party) is more than another symptom of elitism – it is in itself an example of and reason for the decline of the political party, for if the major parties are no longer to take clear and consistent positions on a range of economic and social issues, what is the point in them at all? The recent successes of groups that take a more definite position on the political spectrum display the dangers that major parties face in failing to define and clarify their ideological standpoints – with George Galloway’s left wing Respect Party winning the 2012 Bradford West by election and the decidedly right wing UKIP now regularly polling over 10%. In fighting over the same narrow stretch of centre ground, and in doing so acknowledging that winning elections is now more important that maintaining ideological integrity, the UK’s main political parties seem to be committing collective suicide.

Of course, the death knell of the traditional political party has not been sounded just yet – traditional ‘bread and butter’ economic issues that have arisen with the financial crisis and ensuing squeeze on living standards may yet invigorate Labour and the Conservatives. The party structure has also not yet fully been discredited; with parties such as UKIP thriving with burgeoning memberships, the current malaise may only be affecting the tired and lethargic Conservative and Labour parties. There will also be those who will rejoice at the decline of traditional parties, viewing them as cumbersome anachronisms unable to serve Britain’s fluid modern society. On many occasions, traditional party politics on both sides of the political spectrum have failed the country – one only need only look to the dysfunctional 1970s to see the dangers of dogmatic machine politics.

However, despite this, ever since the work of political philosopher Edmund Burke in the 18th century, it has been accepted that in order to hold the executive to account and form functional governments, well organised and disciplined political parties are required; if this need can be combined with a more open, receptive and flexible but simultaneously principled and meaningful party system, perhaps Ed Miliband and the rest won’t remain such inviting targets for egg throwers.


The Coalition: the imperfect solution to times of great uncertainty

By Sebastian Whale

Okay, they have been a mixed bag. Hastily formed at a time of great political uncertainty, contravening all natural barriers between the right and left, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats formed an allegiance that seemed as unnatural as it did unlikely. Despite manifesto pledges being overturned and public humiliation orchestrated through tuition fee increases, EU referendum pledges, perversions of the course of justice and exposed penchants for expensive burger chains, this most unattractive of arranged marriages has put two fingers to the face of cynics who stated they could never peacefully co-exist. ‘Peacefully’, admittedly, may be a redundant term, given last minute vetoing of a “snooper’s” charter, the split positions on the AV and the conspicuous handling of news internationals bid for BSkyB. “It will never last”, the cynics contentedly stated, but for the good or detriment of the country, depending what side of the coalition fence one finds themselves, the coalition seem set on completing their pledge of serving a full term of office.

And I for one applaud this. Not because they have been a benchmark for excellent government policy, absent of controversy and bent political ambition, altruistic in their intentions and perfect in their execution. No, they have been far from it. From the initial years of withdrawing any policy that faced public scrutiny like an over-sensitive teenager, to blatant stubbornness at the thought of changing course on an “excel-error” based economic policy, the coalition’s inconsistency has been the only constant during their tenure. Sure, some positive signs have appeared recently, following the meaty bone being thrown to them by the ONS overturning the double-dip to the single, extensively deep recession only experienced under Labour. Finally realising the need for capital spending, the inherent opportunity of the development and production of shale gas and the renewal of investment needed in North Sea oil have been essential to this mini revival.

However, it would be too narrow minded to judge the coalition and their governmental output solely on the controversies and inter party struggles. The fact is, whilst there are seismic shifts in the composition of the global political landscape, illustrated by the Arab spring uprising, the emergence of extreme parties across European elections, anti-government protests seen from Turkey to Brazil, the need for compromise and calm has never been greater. During times of oppression, depression or even a convoluted state of affairs, the extremes can emerge and danger arises. Germany in the 1920s experienced hyperinflation and an extreme period of economic hardship, leading to the formation and election of the NSDAP – the Nazi party.

All across Europe, from France to Greece, far right and far left parties are gaining traction, as electorates seek to absolve the status quo associated with the plight they are currently facing. Rebels fighting against tyrannical governments such as in Syria, Libya and Egypt have been armed by allies in decisions that assuage some of the abhorrence the public hold with the actions by the Governments of these countries. However these actions echo an all too familiar tale of western governments arming rebels, leading to the inherent concern of “who are we arming?” such as with Afghanistan and the Russian invaders during the 1980s, which ultimately led to weapons and capabilities being handed over to what would eventually become the enemy of the Western world and the antithesis to freedom and democracy, the Taliban.

These are uncertain and perplexing times, not just confined to other continents. Nigel Farage and his merry UKIP men have seemingly put their mark on British politics as a right wing party that have become the voice of discontented middle England during times of economic deluge and high levels of income inequality, with no hint of irony or acknowledgement of this anomaly. The right have become more vocal, exacerbated by Boris Johnson worshipping and EU membership postulating. The left, through the appointment of Ed Milliband, have taken a diversion from the centre-ground hugging days of Blair and Brown back to its more core left leaning roots, as the unions may or may not be calling the shots and having influence over potential candidates. The centre ground would have dissipated, but for a coalition formed of polar opposite parties, naturally balancing the highly sprung seesaw of modern politics.

The fact remains, two polar opposite political parties by ideology, are attempting to naturally hug the centre ground and keep parliamentary procedure in check by forming an alliance I’m sure not anyone within would call a win-win situation. But while others all around are losing their heads, the coalition are achieving something many have forgotten the importance of during times of great upheaval, the skill of compromise. It’s miles from perfect; frankly it often isn’t pretty, but by demonstrating that parties on opposing ends of the political spectrum during periods of hardship can co-exist, however fraught and discombobulating, is an important signal going forward.

So here’s to the coalition. The frustrating, infuriating, imperfect solution, to what Britain needs to have now. History is not likely to capture their tenure as one of the great, policy rich governments but should, in my opinion, encapsulate it as an important statement of continuity and compromise, when all those around are seeking radical change that, as the annals of history has proven, can do more harm than good.

No to referenda

By Alex Bryan

First the Conservatives, then Labour, now finally, it seems, the Liberal Democrats. Nick Clegg’s statement in PMQ’s on Wednesday that it is a matter of ‘when not if’ a referendum is held on Britain’s membership of the European Union signals the beginning of a three-party consensus that a referendum on Europe is necessary. Considering the age-old Europhilic tendencies of the party, this demonstrates how much support and influence UKIP now wield.

As well as the rise of UKIP, it also signals the rise of something else which the Lib Dems have been altogether more keen on; referenda. Since the ascension of New Labour in 1997, Britain has changed from being a country which had only had one referendum in its entire history to being one in which referenda are becoming an almost common phenomena. Though we have only had one national referendum since 1997 (on the Alternative Vote), the calls for a referendum on the EU and Scottish independence show that they are becoming a part of the national political fabric.

The attractions of calling for a referendum are, from the politicians perspective, clear. ‘Giving the people a vote’ will never be seen as an unpopular stance, and will almost certainly be lauded as ‘democratic’, whilst simultaneously casting anyone who dares to disagree as ‘undemocratic’ or elitist. This should be a worry for those concerned with the health of British politics. The fact that referenda are now seen as a plausible possibility on controversial issues means that politicians can manipulate political opinion in order to suit their political agenda hugely.

Take Europe for example; it is no coincidence that it is the Conservatives and UKIP who are most vocal in their support for a referendum, as it is they who have public opinion on their side. As Labour found out with the ill-fated North Yorkshire devolution referendums in 2004, a referendum lost is an embarrassment. Therefore politicians will only pressure for a referendum on an issue they know that they are winning on.

This is not a good thing. For one thing, issues such as EU membership are hugely complex and shadowed by conjecture and falsehoods. They are immensely important for the future of our nation. They are, essentially, exactly the kind of issues which we elect with politicians to deal with. We devolve some of our democratic powers to parliament and the government in the hope that they, as qualified, full-time politicians, will be able to conduct hearings and make policy on important issues better than we would.

Again, take the EU. This is a subject as controversial as it is possible to be. Proponents of referendums say that, come election day, the public education programme and campaigning preceding it will ensure that the public is informed enough to cast a ballot. But when it comes to the EU, very few people know the figures. Nigel Farage might bang on about membership fees but in reality the economic benefits or costs of EU membership are impossible to calculate. By the time election day comes round, the campaigning will simply have affirmed existing prejudices. On an issue as complex as EU membership, most people will not have the time or the information to do any research into the issue, and will cast their vote based on the statistics and opinions they read in the newspapers, the vast majority of which are anti-EU. It is not elitist to say that in the modern world, where democracy is seen as the state getting out of your way rather than direct participation in the political system, it is not elitist to say this: it is simply realistic.

More important than any individual bad decision however are the long-term implications of referendums on the public’s views on politicians. If politicians begin regularly abdicating the biggest decisions, then it will no longer be seen as important whether they can handle the big decisions, as they will be making fewer of them. A public which already views politicians with contempt will begin to see them as dispensable.

There is a case to be made for the claim that the public does not have enough say on governance, that one vote every five years is nowhere near sufficient. But a functioning democratic system must be constitutionally consistent. If the appetite for referendums is the appetite for increased public involvement, then there are other more effective avenues which lead to that. To attempt to invoke ‘the will of the people’ on an ad hoc basis is dangerous, and has little to do with what the public actually wants. It’s not about public involvement. It is a political power play, designed to render the opponent impotent, and it is a device of which we should be increasingly wary.   L

Our Great Irony: Market Stalinism and Jeremy Hunt

By Patrick Lee

Picture it. You’re a university lecturer teaching a course on Modern American Fiction and you’re conducting your own research into, I don’t know, the conception of protest in different generations of alternative narratives. I don’t know, it doesn’t matter, any example will do. OK, so you have a desire and a passion to teach. You’re looking forward to the course. Now you have to submit a ‘module specification’, listing all your ‘aims and objectives’, which will be assessed at the end of the course; then you have to provide a ‘modes and methods of assessment’ form; then at the end of the course you have to provide an assessment of your performance and the module’s strengths and weaknesses. Then you have to provide some paperwork on how the course will be improved next year. Then you have to submit your four best pieces of published research as part of the Research Assessment Exercise. This is just the start of the paperwork.

Or, as I recently was, imagine you are visiting a dying person in a state funded hospital. In my case we had to plead, and finally insist, that more morphine was given to the patient due to their agony and our distress. Morphine has to be administered by two nurses. This process has to be monitored, and recorded. The patient, dying, in bed in the middle of the night, swimming in and out of consciousness, surrounded by family, then had to be stripped naked, and re-clothed. This was a fundamental procedure, despite the fact she had less than a few hours left to live. A box had to be ticked. The change of clothes did nothing to help the patient’s physical state. The bureaucracy was of detriment to the service. The nurses who changed her were private nurses.

I’ve worked in kitchens where a tick box focusing on what to clean and how to clean it was actually damaging to the process of keeping the kitchen as clean as possible. I’ve worked in restaurants where waiters were given scripted lines to say to customers. I’ve worked in call centres where every line of conversation, every bathroom break, and every glass of water drunk, was monitored and recorded so I could assess my own performance levels.

On the surface it, a focus on bureaucracy seems antithetical to the neoliberal, free market liberal democracy of Western hegemony. The appeal of neoliberalism is that it is the opposite of Stalinist centralised government. It encourages free market growth and empowerment of the individual to achieve in a competitive workplace, rather than serve the interests of the state. Neoliberalism should therefore, theoretically, attempt to abolish Stalinist paperwork and bureaucratic procedures.  In the West only the market rules, and those who participate in it are individuals who can succeed or fail as they see fit. So, the obvious question is: why all the bureaucracy?  And does it benefit anyone?

Think back to the examples of the dying patient in hospital, or of a teacher wanting to lecture his students. Are these students consumers or products of a privatised education institution? This question becomes very tricky and, as you try to work it out, try to imagine you are looking at it from the perspective of free market entrepreneur: how can the education (or health) system generate as much money as possible? The difficulty comes in the fact that these forms of labour are difficult to quantify. An ideal market produces swift transactions, where demands are met directly by an institution. But now we need to monitor this institution in order to maintain that transaction. More management is needed to regulate and mediate on performance of the hospital or school. Boxes must be ticked, evaluations completed in order to preserve the illusion of all round smooth transactions. Performance of the institution must be evaluated and judging the performance of a school, or of a hospital, or a police station, where it is difficult to bracket customers and pigeonhole results, necessitates a lot of awkward, boring and possibly unnecessary questions and observation.

Please note, however, that it is only the appearance of the institutions that actually matter. You will notice that during this evaluation the needs of the customer have become secondary to the needs of the market. More effort must now go into preserving the appearance that work is being done on improving services, rather than actually improving those services themselves. And so we witness the introduction of targets, which everybody knows by now are bad for business. We can all, I’m sure, think of examples of the failure of targets. I immediately remember practising for my GCSE exams, and asking my maths teacher to explain in more detail the reason for applying a certain formula to get certain results (I think it may have been why Pythagoras’s theory worked, or why in order to find 1% of something I divided by 100). Instead of having the rule explained to me, I was just told to remember the rule, as that’s all I would need for my exam. This wasn’t necessarily bad teaching. My teacher simply had limited time to make sure his students got the best exam results possible, and to ensure that he therefore scored highly in his own assessments from management. I, however, never really learnt the truth behind certain maths problems: only the exam mattered, only the illusion that I had a grasp on Pythagoras. Targets become ends in themselves rather than empirical measurements of performance, and the customer suffers.

The result if what contemporary philosophers and social scientists refer to as market Stalinism. Stalin wanted the world to see communist industry at its best and so pushed development of projects until their progress was hampered by his goal-orientated ethos. The White Sea Canal project is the best example of this form of Stalinist industry, and is comparable to how markets are managed in the contemporary neoliberal West.

However, as work has become decentralized and the onus is on individuals to constantly re-evaluate and demonstrate their skills in ever changing work spheres, it becomes the responsibility of the worker to monitor their own performance. As Foucault described with his panopticon metaphor, when a person does not know when they are being monitored, they act as if they are being monitored constantly. As a worker in a decentralized market it is only your responsibility to continue to monitor your own performance and progress, or to fail. Consequently workers will now be expected to find something wrong with themselves, in order to have something to improve upon. Working to a “satisfactory” level is no longer actually satisfactory.

This bureaucracy, the measurement of unquantifiable data in order to try to derive profit, is the price we pay for free market liberal democracy. And what does that provide us with? The answer is ostensibly economic growth, the satisfaction of human needs, the growth of technology and victory of man over nature.

In the instance of unquantifiable and essentially humanistic or egalitarian aims, however, the bureaucratic process clearly does not work. A compromise must be found, and the first step must be in addressing what liberal democracy provides human beings. Rousseau argued that technological advancement did not make humans happier, but rather more miserable. Human needs are only very basic, according to Rousseau: food and shelter from the elements, and not much more.  Technological advancement and economic growth may in fact hinder the most vital human instincts. So long as the desire for exponential growth still exists the bureaucratic procedure in the world of work will rule, as it is the way of monitoring the market. However, in the instance of the NHS, or humanistic institutions, these procedures are damaging. Compromise must be found. Jeremy Hunt’s Statutory Instrument 257 is the next step in the Tory coalition government privatising the NHS, opening up doctor’s records to the private health companies, and further adding a new layer of damaging bureaucracy onto the health system. In order to fight against bureaucracy and the damaging nature of self-evaluation, a new collective political subject must emerge. The first step is in fighting the total privatisation and bureaucratisation of the most fundamental institutions.

A petition against Hunt’s privatisation measures can be signed here

Iain Duncan Smith is wrong to deify shelf-stacking

By Alex Bryan

‘The rich will do anything for the poor but get off their backs’ – Karl Marx

In the aftermath of Cait Reilly winning her case against the Government’s ‘back to work’ scheme, Iain Duncan Smith has clearly been in a bad mood. Reilly, who had been made to work in a Poundland in order to receive Jobseeker’s Allowance, only won her case on a technicality, and as such it seems likely to be no more than an embarrassing delay in implementation. As well as pledging to ensure that the scheme would still be implemented, Smith attacked Reilly, saying that ‘there are a group of people out there who think they are too good for this kind of stuff’.

This is to all intents and purposes a simply bizarre thing to have said. Shelf-stacking is without a doubt a mind-numbing, de-humanising job. As modernisation swept through society, liquidating those jobs so repetitious that they could be done by machine, the retail sector retained the humble shelf-stacker, prized for the simple act of being human. With supermarkets dominating our collective shopping experiences more extremely than ever before, shelf-stackers play a central role in the smooth operation of retail nationwide. Like lawyers, it seems there will always be work for shelf-stackers.

But is this really something to be celebrated? The way that Iain Duncan Smith talks, you would think that shelf-stacking is a noble art, a heroic existence, or if not then at least a job with inherent worth and value. It is none of these things. It is the ruthless cynicism of capitalistic employment laid most bare; a job that would only ever be performed for money. But, alas, such employment is necessary for the machinery of society to function correctly. This is different to saying that we should not regard such jobs as beneath us as humans. We are in the privileged position of having capacities which allow us to do extraordinary things, to think, to be creative. Shelf-stacking does not enhance these capacities; indeed it does not even require their use. It is rote, it is mechanical. And what human really wants to be a machine?

The point Iain Duncan Smith is making is of course not a philosophical one so much as a social one; he is saying that if you are unemployed and get (or are forced, due to the conditions of benefits payments) to take a job staking shelves, then you should take it, do it, and be thankful to have it.

But there is still a point about human nature to be made here, and it is about aspiration. As Minister for Welfare, it should be one of Smith’s prime objectives to improve social mobility. To do this whilst simultaneously saying that people should be satisfied by stacking shelves seems contradictory. We should be encouraging people to aspire to more than just having a job, we should be encouraging people to improve themselves and to make the most of themselves. No one fulfils their potential by stacking shelves at Poundland.

There is also an element of snobbery in the Welfare Minister’s comments. One suspects that he would regard himself as, if not ‘above’ working as a shelf-stacker, then certainly overqualified and more useful in other areas. He would be right. He would be wrong though to think that for people with no qualifications and few prospects that shelf-stacking is anything more than a job which pays a wage.

This article is not an attack on shelf stacking. It is instead an attack on the suggestion that such work is befitting of any human being, and on the implication that it has any value beyond that of its wage. If Iain Duncan Smith wants to talk up jobs, then he should focus on jobs which build self-esteem and enhance a person’s life beyond giving them a wage.

The British Chambers of Commerce and the question of growth

By Matt Kilcoyne

The British Chambers of Commerce has released the findings of its survey of 7,593 UK firms and it is a mixed bag of results for the UK economy. Overall the BCC, which represents over 104,000 UK businesses, found that the British economy had grown in the third quarter of this year by around 0.5%. This represents a stark departure from the gloom earlier in the year where it’s estimated that GDP shrank by 0.4% Q2 and 0.2% Q1 and will be a welcome relief for the British chancellor George Osborne.

Yet this headline figure of growth, which happily for the Conservatives appears right in the middle of the Labour conference, does come with some heavy caveats. Namely, that whilst the top line figure appears positive, the underlying economy is hurting and almost all key balances had worsened in Q3 compared to Q2. Indeed the Government’s much lauded export lead growth policy, designed to rebalance the economy away from over-reliance on finance, is suffering with the third quarter levels dropping to a similar level as the end of 2011. This report coincided with the release of the Purchasing Managers’ Index which measures economic indicators and where an number above 50 represents expansion, below contraction, with the export PMI down from 48.8 to 48 Aug-Sep and the sixth month of continuous decline.

It doesn’t even stop there with manufacturing at 48.4 (well below the market expectation) and employment at 47. In addition to this bad news the input price for firms rising from 48.8 to 57.5 whilst output price fell showing that “firms have struggled to pass on the increase in their costs to customers”

BCC Director General John Longworth said: “Economic growth is weak and businesses are less confident and less likely to invest than they were at the beginning of the year “The BCC’s survey results should be a clear signal to Government that more needs to be done to stimulate growth alongside continued deficit reduction. Despite official estimates, we believe the economy is still growing, but it is slowing. We need immediate measures now to support confidence and investment, a radical long-term growth plan, and a continued commitment to deficit reduction.”

The BCC’s call for new means to stimulate growth will chime with UK voters that have increasingly become cautious on spending cuts with more and more wanting cuts done more slowly and the Coalition increasingly seen as managing the economy poorly.

Yet for all this woe it should be noted that the BBC and its members really do think that the economy is growing and that their businesses are surviving. This is a call for animal spirits to be revived and to get the British economy back to life. The BCC notes that the Liberal Democrat and Conservative coalition has policies in the pipe-line to get us moving again and wants to see them implemented quicker “such as implementing plans to create a British Business Bank as well as far-reaching proposals to unlock infrastructure investment”. These calls should ring warning bells for Labour leaders as businesses are not calling for Labour’s ‘Five Point Plan’ but for more Coalition policy.

If Labour are to gain back the some 5 million voters that deserted them between 1997 and 2010 then they will need to restore their economic credibility and one of the easiest ways for them to do this is to get the confidence of businesses and their workers. Whilst they’re on the wrong side of ‘wealth creators’ they will also be on the wrong side of the argument and quite possibly the wrong side of the house for the rest of their agenda.

Finally, to end on some good news and some brilliant news for the areas concerned, the economy in some of our most deprived communities is recovering at a pace well above average with Liverpool and Norfolk bucking the trend of negativity. Liverpool’s Chamber of Commerce saw optimism in sales, orders and exports with manufacturing sales performance is at the highest level since quarter four 2010 and orders at their highest since 2007; confidence follows mass investment from Car Industry giants providing job security and growth opportunity for other firms in the region.

If George Osborne’s deficit reduction strategy is to work, growth be returned consistently and the economy rebalanced the BCC’s calls for radical action will need to be heeded. If Labour is to regain power it will need to regain the confidence of business and promote policies that will actually work at getting the economy growing. The problem is until the politicking ends and we see a decent effort on all sides to go for growth, to talk up the economy and revive our desire for growth it’s quite likely that the economy will continue to stagnate and the news correspondingly bleak.