There are two rules for politicians during a period of economic uncertainty. One is not to claim to have seen “green shoots” too early; the mistake made by Norman Lamont (and arguably by Shriti Vadera). The other is not to talk the economy down even further.
Ken Clarke, the justice secretary, today referred to the strong possibility of “a prolonged recession, with a long period of youth unemployment.” He may be correct, of course, but the comment did not show the most deft of political touches.
Labour has jumped on the comment with Rachel Reeves, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, accusing the coalition of “planning for a recession”. Ministers should instead “be doing everything they can to stop it,” she said.
Clarke made his comments during justice questions today. (You’ll notice that he also implies that crime may go up, which isn’t exactly reassuring either.) The exact answer was:
It is possible with a prolonged recession, with a long period of youth unemployment there will be an increase in acquisitive crime if that is the experience we have in this country. What we’re doing is responding to that and the courts, the prison service is responding very well…