Friday 26 July 2019 12:16 am

Boris sings an uplifting tune but the mood music is more sinister

Put aside for a moment the enormity of the challenges facing the new Prime Minister and ignore, briefly, the vulnerability of his government and the divisions over Brexit.

Instead, permit yourself to enjoy the sight and sound of a leader who actually dares to exude optimism. Boris Johnson has pledged to sweep away the “doomsters and gloomsters” and vows that “people who bet against Britain are going to lose their shirts”.

He claims we are on the cusp of “a new golden age,” if only we “ping off the guy-ropes of self-doubt and negativity”.

You may not share his confidence, but you should at least recognise that to millions of people watching the six o’clock news the arrival of Johnson in Downing Street repres­ents the first time in three years that they’ve seen some­one at the top of government express a bit of positivity. This counts for something, and those keen to write-off Johnson’s chances should reflect on it.


However, just as the scorching summer weather gives way to thunderstorms, the Prime Minister’s sunny disposition could come up against storm clouds sooner than he’d like.

Warning lights are flashing on the economic dashboard. Surveys and datasets have for months told a familiar story. Business and domestic investor confidence is slipping, retail spending is down, manufacturing output is contracting, growth in services is lacklustre, finance chief surveys paint a gloomy scene and analysis of hiring intentions suggest employers are nervous.

An optimist like Johnson may say the warning lights are amber, not red, and it’s certainly possible to find examples that run counter to the narrative of decline. The employment rate is high, wages are rising, foreign investment is holding up and technically the economy is still growing.

Confidence counts for a lot, but it is in short supply. A few months of brinkmanship with the EU could well see it evaporate.

Some economists think the UK is already in recession. A successful Brexit deal would turn things around, but not overnight.

All of this makes Sajid Javid the most important person in the room. The new chancellor cannot afford to wait for a Brexit resolution, let alone a no-deal emergency budget to keep the lights on.

Johnson sings an uplifting tune, but the economic mood music sounds rather more sinister.


Main image credit: Getty

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