Britain’s GDP has fallen by almost 5% since Gordon Brown became PM

Wat Tyler writes:

For the first time ever, Her Majesty has a Prime Minister who has presided over a fall in GDP per capita – and not a small fall either. Since the idiot Brown took over less than three years ago, per capita GDP has fallen by a catastrophic 5%.

Here’s the complete Prime Ministerial record up to end-2009 (per capita GDP at basic prices; ONS data and BOM calcs):

Churchill (1953-55) +7%
Eden (1955-57) +2%
Macmillan (1957-63) +15%
Douglas-Home (1963-64) +4%
Wilson (1964-1970 and 1974-1976) +15%
Heath (1970-74) +12%
Callaghan (1976-1979) +7%
Thatcher (1979-1990) +26%
Major (1990-97) +13%
Blair (1997-2007) +27% (yes, on this measure, he beat Thatcher)
Brown (2007-2009) -5%

Please take a moment to absorb that list. Brown’s record is miles worse that Callaghan’s – despite all those Red Robbo strikes and the Winter of Discontent. And it’s miles worse that Eden’s – widely reckoned to be our worst post-WW2 PM.

Indeed, the damage suffered under Brown has been so extensive, average incomes have now fallen back to their level five years ago – the most dismal five years we’ve seen since the Coronation.

Of course Brown isn’t out of office yet and the final result when he does go may be more favourable to him. However we’ve just experienced the deepest recession of the post WW-II era, and it’s possible it may not be over yet. Also, if the comment about GDP falling back to where it was 5 years ago is correct, it means that the gains made since Labour were re-elected for their third term have been wiped out.

One might complain that in the case of e.g. Thatcher and Major, they both experienced recessions but were in power for a sufficiently long time to see growth return, whilst the current/most recent recession hit Britain not long after Brown became PM and has thus dominated the statistics for his period in office. The problem with this line is that Brown as PM is reaping the consequences of his earlier policies as Brown the Chancellor, i.e. he is primarily responsible for the problems that led to this mess. In the case of the Tories, that was true of the early 1990s recession but the early 1980s recession was an inheritance from the previous Labour government,

An interesting comparison is to look at the GDP with each of the last few recessions and figure out how many years growth were wiped out in each case. Looking at the GDP for each year from 1948 to 2009, courtesy of the ONS, we can see that the 2009 had a lower GDP than 2008, 2007 and 2006. In the previous recession, 1991 was the lowest yearly GDP (though the recession didn’t end until 1992), lower than 1990 and 1989 respectively. In the recession of 79-81, the GDP for 1981 was lower than 1980 and 1979 respectively. In other words the recession has been worse than either of the recessions the last Tory governments had to deal with.

This is reinforced when you look at the %age drop in GDP from the previous high point for each of the recessions. Using the yearly figures, in 2009 the percentage drop was 4.85% (from a high in 2008), for the previous recession it was 1.39% (from a high in 1990) and for 1981 it was 3.38% (from a high in 1979).

Using the quarterly figures, for Q3 2009, the most recent low point, the drop from the previous high (Q1 2008) was 6.03%, where for Q2 1992 (the low point of that recession), the drop was 2.54% from the previous high (Q2 1990). For Q1 1981 the drop was 6.00% from the previous high in Q2 1979. Admittedly, on this measure, that recession is almost as bad as the 2008/9 one in terms of the drop from the previous high, but the 2008/9 recession achieved this drop in a shorter timescale, i.e. it was a sharper recession.

Also, it’s possible the economic woe for the 2008/9 recession isn’t over yet.

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