Mehdi's Morning Memo: Hurrah! Growth Is...Um...Er...Flat.

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** Hurrah! Growth Is...Um...Er...Flat. ** Pain And No Gain ** Did Dave Break The Law? ** Hell Hath No Fury... ** Government Vs Scroungers, Part 245 ** Savilegate: BBC Continues To Eat Itself ** Paedo Ring In Downing Street? ** Afghanistan: The Lost War ** Dave Vs Dominic ** Obama Votes For Himself **

HURRAH! GROWTH IS...UM...ER...FLAT.

Set your alarms. At 9:30am, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) will reveal that the UK has emerged from its 'double-dip' recession. City forecasters assume the figure for the third quarter - July through September - will be around 0.6%; some say it might even be close to 1%.

After three consecutive quarters of negative growth, and Tory backbench handwringing about the lack of a growth plan, the new figures will come as a huge relief to David Cameron and George Osborne and bolster their 'economy is healing' narrative.

But, analysts note, if you exclude the one-off boost from the Olympics in the third quarter, and strip out the artificially negative effect on growth in the second quarter of the Diamond Jubilee bank holiday, then growth is broadly flat across the year. Yes, flat.

So, going forward, with no Olympics to bank on in the fourth quarter, are we on the verge of an unprecedented 'triple-dip' recession? Bank of England governor Sir Mervyn King said on Tuesday night: "The zig-zag pattern of quarterly growth rates of GDP that we have seen this year is likely to continue." Earlier this month, Martin Beck, chief economist at Capital Economics, warned: "We expect the economy to start contracting again in the fourth quarter."

Meanwhile, Labour yesterday issued its 'prebuttal' to the GDP figures, with shadow chief secretary Rachel Reeves saying:

“Growth of one per cent would simply mean the economy is the same size as a year ago. A one-off boost from the Olympics is no substitute for a long-term strategy and should not breed yet more complacency from David Cameron and George Osborne.”

PAIN AND NO GAIN

From the Times splash:

"Britons are more than £1,800 a year worse off than they would be had the country avoided a double-dip recession, according to a study by leading business analysts.

... Annual incomes, including taxes and benefits, would have been 9 per cent higher if they had carried on growing along their pre-crisis path, John Hawksworth, PwC's chief economist, found.

The overall annual output of the economy would have been £200 billion (12.8 per cent) higher if it had followed its normal trajectory, he said. Hundreds of thousands more people would be in work."

DID DAVE BREAK THE LAW?

The PM has a habit of running his mouth at PMQs - from calling veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner a "dinosaur" to, last week, claiming that new laws would be brought in to force energy firms to give customers the cheapest tariff available.

But did he break the law (yes, the law!) yesterday? My colleague Ned Simons reports:

"The UK Statistics Authority is looking into whether David Cameron broke the law by hinting that the GDP figures due to be released tomorrow would show the British economy had grown.


Under pressure from Ed Miliband at prime minister's questions, Cameron sought to emphasise recent positive indicators on the economy and said: 'I can tell you, the good news will keep coming.'

The prime minister is one of a very small group of people who are given advance 24-hours notice of the market sensitive data.

Under the rules of the the Pre-release Access to Official Statistics Order 2008 the information is not supposed to be made public early.

Asked whether the prime minister had broken the rules, the UK Statistics Authority told the Huffington Post UK: 'We're looking into it'."

The story is also on the front of the Guardian and the Telegraph.

HELL HATH NO FURY...

Talking of the PM's gaffes at PMQs, do you remember when Dave mocked backbencher Nadine Dorries in the Commons, referring to her as "extremely frustrated"? Ever since, Dave has been criticised and attacked in the press by the backbencher ("posh boy", "arrogant", etc).

Why? "Nobody wrongs me and doesn’t pay for it," she says in an interview with me for the Huffington Post UK, referring to Cameron's Commons jibe. "There is a saying: ‘Revenge is a dish best served cold.’”

Dorries also condemns George Osborne as a "pernicious influence" on the PM and on the economy and says "there will be" a Tory leadership contest ahead of the 2015 election. You can read her remarks here. The full interview will be published later in the week.

GOVERNMENT VS SCROUNGERS, PART 245

These days, the coalition's - and, in particular, the Tories' - motto seems to be: 'When in trouble, slap a scrounger'.

From the Sun:

"A new benefits cap could be slapped on families with large numbers of children, Iain Duncan Smith will signal today.

The Work and Pensions Secretary will say the Government must change the way it offers 'perverse incentives', such as handing young mums more cash for more kids.

In contrast, working families have to make tough decisions about how many kids they can afford to have. In a speech in Cambridge, Mr Duncan Smith will say the benefits system is a 'classic case of patching' — trying to contain problems rather than solve them.

... He will insist there is not a 'bottomless purse'."

Except for tax cuts on the rich, some might argue...

SAVILEGATE: THE BBC CONTINUES TO EAT ITSELF

The Telegraph splashes ("BBC at war...") on BBC radio presenter's Victoria Derbyshire's remarks yesterday on Twitter:

"George Entwistle and the BBC's senior management were accused by their staff yesterday of making a scapegoat of the Newsnight editor who cancelled the Jimmy Savile investigation.

The broadcaster descended into infighting over the child abuse scandal as executives past and present fought to keep their jobs.

... Victoria Derbyshire, a presenter on BBC Radio 5 Live, wrote on Twitter yesterday: 'If BBC journos/Eds make a poor editorial call, (& most of us hve at some point), will they be treated by mgemnt like Peter Rippon has been?'

She quoted a number of replies to her message, including one that said: 'If Rippon is the only casualty then it will seem like a stitch–up.'"

Meanwhile, Sir Roger Gale, a Conservative MP and former BBC current affairs producer, has become the first politician to suggest Entwistle and BBC chair Chris Patten could lose their jobs over 'Savilegate'. Oh, and across the pond, former BBC d-g Mark Thompson, who is due to take over as chief executive of the New York Times Company next month, has been dragged into the scandal, with BBC correspondent Caroline Hawley claiming she raised concerns about the shelved Newsnight report with Thompson at a function in BBC TV centre.

In a posting on the New York Times' website, Margaret Sullivan, the public editor, wrote: "It's worth considering now whether he is the right person for the job, given this turn of events." Uh-oh!

PAEDO RING IN DOWNING STREET?

The Mirror splashes on Tom Watson's astonishing claims in the Commons yesterday:

"The Jimmy Savile paedophile scandal took a sensational new twist yesterday - with claims that a powerful child sex ring was linked to Downing Street.


Labour MP Tom Watson shocked the Commons by revealing a key member of the perverted group was a senior aide to a former Prime Minister.


And last night it was confirmed that officers investigating the sickening allegations against Savile are also probing a possible paedophile gang at the heart of government."

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon dancing Gangnam style (for real! not a spoof!), with South Korean rap sensation Psy at the UN headquarters in New York.

AFGHANISTAN: THE LOST WAR

From the BBC:

"The UK might have to recognise that creating a viable state in Afghanistan is not achievable, an influential group of MPs has said.

The Commons international development committee said the UK should reconsider its ambition of building Afghan government institutions in favour of more traditional aid targets."

It is, said a BBC reporter on the Today programme this morning, a "shocking" report.

Meanwhile, the MoD has announced the deaths of another two British soldiers, taking the UK military death toll in Afghanistan - since the invasion in October 2001 - to 435.

DAVE VS DOMINIC

The prime minister publicly clashed with his own attorney general yesterday - over whether or not to give prisoners the right to vote, in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Speaking in the morning, Dominic Grieve hinted to MPs on the Justice Committee that the government would be changing the law on prisoners' voting rights: "The current blanket ban is in breach of the convention... The UK government is an adherent to the convention and successive governments, including this one, have always paid great observance.”

But not long afterwards, at prime minister's questions, Cameron told MPs in the chamber: "No one should be in any doubt – prisoners are not getting the vote under this Government."

The right-wing papers are delighted. "The tough message," says a jubilant Sun this morning, "was a humiliating slap-down for the Government’s top law officer, Attorney General Dominic Grieve."
OBAMA VOTES FOR HIMSELF

Today, Barack Obama will be doing something no US president has done before: he'll be casting his ballot in his home town of Chicago 12 days before election day.

From the BBC:

"[H]e's not alone - 6.5 million Americans have already voted, nearly two weeks before election day. So is it possible the election has already been decided?

...[B]oth campaigns are focusing on early voters as a way to make sure their candidates get as many votes as possible."

QUOTE UNQUOTE

"Watched all the presidential debates. If I had to vote would vote Obama."
- the US president will be delighted to receive this endorsement from...Wayne Rooney (on Twitter yesterday).

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From yesterday's YouGov/Sun poll:

Labour 43%
Conservatives 33%
Lib Dems 9%

This would give Labour a majority of 118.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@DavidWooding The number of police investigating alleged paedophile ring at BBC: 10. The number probing how newspaper Journalists get their stories: 178.

@JBeattieMirror Looking forward to the characteristic humility from the people who drove us into recession taking thanks for getting us out of it

@DenisMacShane Tory papers loyally burying No 10 paedophile ring story. Savile story was also suppressed by media establishment - not just BBC

900 WORDS OR MORE

David Blanchflower, writing in the New Statesman, explains: "Here’s why unemployment has fallen and why it will rise again soon."

Stephen Glover, writing in the Daily Mail, launches an attack on BBC chair Chris Patten: "Why did Dave every let him run the BBC?"

Zoe Williams, writing in the Guardian, says: "Talk of U-turning, normal people, hard-working families and grown-up women reveals leaders bereft of real authority."


Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (mehdi.hasan@huffingtonpost.com), Chris Wimpress (chris.wimpress@huffingtonpost.com) or Ned Simons (ned.simons@huffingtonpost.com). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @chriswimpress, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol