As results for the local elections continue to trickle in today, it is increasingly clear that the Conservatives did poorly. This should be to no one’s surprise: you can tell a government is doing very badly indeed, when news that the country is experiencing its first double dip recession since 1975 fails to qualify as the lead story in most of the next day’s papers.
The ongoing phone hacking saga, combined with uncertainty over Jeremy Hunt’s future and continuing aftershocks from the “omni-shambles” Budget, meant that last Wednesday’s official confirmation that the UK was back in recession was overshadowed in the press.
This however belies the fact that the double dip, in contrast to Westminster media fluff about “pasty” and “granny taxes,” could be a political game changer with serious consequences for the Conservatives and Labour at the next general election.
The double dip is potentially of lasting political significance for two reasons. Firstly, it calls into question more seriously than ever before the economic competence of the government. The extent to which George Osborne’s programme of spending cuts is responsible for the return to recession (two consecutive quarters of negative growth) is, and will remain a matter of fierce debate between economists. Only the most churlish of commentators would claim that the contraction of the economy had nothing to do with continuing instability in the eurozone.