Bleak new year

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SURELY, if there is one thing that the British public does not need to be told, it is that 2012 is going to be worse than 2011. Yet here is the message being propounded yet again, this time in the form of a New Year greeting from the Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank.

Barely have the Christmas festivities begun to die down than it seems that the harsh financial reality must be faced. Or must it? Even as he warns that the UK economic outlook can best be described as “bleak”, IPPR chief economist Tony Dolphin admits that all the talk of austerity at home and crisis in Europe is in danger of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, dampening spirits to the extent that the economy drifts into recession.

Certainly, there is little point in continuing to outline the extent of the problem without proffering convincing solutions. And Mr Dolphin points out that, from three possible remedies – boosting public spending, increasing demand for British goods and services and giving UK consumers and businesses a reason to spend more – only the latter is feasible and even then it is unclear what the spur for this is going to be.

It is one thing for the IPPR to struggle for answers, however, but quite another for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. After a year of dismal failure to come up with a strategy for growth, can George Osborne give the nation any concrete reason for hope in 2012?