Recession, what recession? Don’t panic!

Latest: From the G8 summit in Japan, Gordon Brown said he still believed he was the best man to steer the country though the current troubled economic times. “I think if we look at the experience I have of dealing with the economic agenda, our ability to talk with world leaders at this difficult time, it is very important,” he added. “The test of leadership is to take people through difficult times.” And Brown crony Baroness Vadera a Business minister pronounces: “”I do not agree that there will be a recession.” Do we feel assured?

What is it about people in NI, that they get engrossed in every twist and turn of the sectarian debate but seem to shrug off the state of the economy? Is it fatalism or feather- bedding? Yet this could be the week when all of us in these islands finally woke up to the prospect of hard times ahead. This from the Mail, never knowingly understated. As bank shares tumble, could Bradford and Bingley, whose shares are feared “worthless” become another Northern Rock?
A recession by the way is three consecutive quarters of what is quaintly called “negative growth” UK public spending is likely to take a new hit, if the forecast of a £7.5 billion black hole, exclusive to the Independent, is correct.

Things are getting really bad, when Polly Toynbee, the keeper of Labour’s conscience, lays it on the line so starkly in the Guardian..

the signs are ominous. Contrary to assertions, Britain may not be better equipped to weather a storm that looks darker with every day. Advertising in newspapers and television is falling off a cliff, always an early warning, as shares go south. Job losses cascade in thousands from vulnerable sectors – the City, estate agents, shops and media. Unemployment points upwards: figures will swell artificially as incapacity claimants and lone parents are diverted on to unemployed lists. This is an oddly still moment, contemplating a crash that so far has hit few badly. High food and fuel prices are here to stay, house prices will go on falling, interest rates may rise in fear of stagflation, and some predict a 1930s depression worsened by climate change and rivalry for scarcer oil and water.

Telling people to eat their leftovers ranks with Edwina Currie telling old people in cold houses to wear woolly hats. Wise – but impertinent from politicians. Labour needs new answers if anything half as bad as predicted descends, requiring screeching U-turns in economic policy. That is near impossible for the man in charge for 11 years, when Tory party political broadcasts will be playing Brown saying “No more boom and bust” on an echoing loop.

Prospects are no better in the Republic. as the Irish Times reports an 8-10% fall in the banking stocks in the first hour of trading this morning, while the cabinet meets to plan big public spending cuts – well ahead of the British.

Although the property bubble has burst, the NI Executive meanwhile, are still sticking with a note of cautious optimism, according to the latest statement I can find. Time for an update, Nigel?

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London