The green shoots that never quite grew
In a dramatic break from a trend set by, oh, almost all the daily papers published in the UK, the front page of this morning’s Financial Times featured absolutely nothing concerning expenses or Jordan.
Instead, it proclaimed the exciting news that after a winter of discontent, European economies are beginning to see signs that the downturn is ‘easing’. According to Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank, we may well be beginning to see those green shoots pushing through.
“In all cases we see a slowing down of the decrease in GDP. In certain cases you see already a picking up,” Trichet said – which was rather charmingly put, we feel.
But hang on – before you begin putting the cocktail sausages out – haven’t we heard this before? Hasn’t talk of ‘green shoots’ been bandied about already? What happened there?
Well, you’re right, it has. And to prove it, we’ve rounded up exactly where you’ve heard it before:
- January 15 – Business minister Baroness Shriti Vadera came under fire for suggesting she could see green shoots of recovery during a television interview. The remark caused opposition politicians to accuse her of ‘living in a parallel universe’ and forced her to do another round of interviews clarifying her remarks.
- March 18 – This time it was solicitor general Vera Baird who was caught up Shootgate. On the day unemployment figures hit two million, Baird said she was ‘reasonably confident there will, before very long, be green shoots’, adding the British economy was ‘not anything like as bad’ as other economies. Shadow chancellor George Osborne seized upon the remarks to appeal as much as possible to Daily Mail readers and told journalists the comments ‘beggar belief’.
- April 15 – This time, a reasonably positive one. According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors released a report indicating homebuyer enquiries and sales had risen for five consecutive months, indicating there are green shoots emerging in the property market.
- April 22 – Alistair Darling’s Budget went down like a Woolies joke at a shareholders’ meeting: badly. During the speech, Darling predicted green shoots would be appearing by the end of the year – and was then systematically torn apart by everyone in politics. The best came from – you guessed it – David Cameron, who called the Budget a ‘callous farce’ and told the House of Commons the Prime Minister was the only person in Britain who ‘doesn't realise how ridiculous he looks’.
So there you have it: green shoots that never made it past the germination stage. It's not that we want to rain on the ECB's parade - it's just that we don't want to get all dressed up only to find the parade has been cancelled by one of those pesky recession things again.