In the small hours of Friday morning, when most of my fellow economics scribes were in Washington at the annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, I was eating cheese on toast on my sofa. With Labour having just held on in Heywood and Middleton by-election, there was I, like the rest of the UK’s political obsessives, staring at the television bug-eyed, awaiting Clacton’s verdict.
I’m not a Ukip supporter and Carswell isn’t a personal friend. Yet, as I wrote three days after he defected from the Tories, I really wanted the member for Clacton to hold his Commons seat. That because, over many years of talking to MPs and ministers of all parties, he’s one of the few politicians I’ve encountered who has truly grasped the realities of the Western world’s current economic predicament.
I’d like to congratulate Douglas Carswell on forcing a by-election in his Clacton constituency. Furthermore, I hope he wins. I write this not because I’m a UKIP supporter, because I’d take a particular pleasure in seeing the Conservative party suffer in this high-profile Essex constituency or because Carswell is a personal friend. None of these things is true.
What is true is that on the various occasions I’ve met him since he entered Parliament in 2005, and in much of his prodigious written output, I’ve found Carswell to be not only perceptive and intelligent but also, genuinely principled. He’s a debater and thinker who identifies tough issues, immerses himself in research, then comes to clear, intelligible conclusions. That’s rare among MPs.
The latest growth numbers are good news. The UK economy expanded by 0.7pc during the final three months of last year, with national output up a respectable 1.9pc for 2013 as a whole.
Britain has now grown for four successive quarters, we learnt on Tuesday, with GDP rising at its fastest annual rate since 20007. Comparing the fourth quarter of 2013 to the same period in 2012, in fact, the UK grew no less than 2.8pc. Crikey! Britain is booming!