James Bond and the Feel-Good Prince

I am sure Prince William knows how to knot his own bow-tie when he dons a tuxedo but this is not his only similarity with James Bond.

Ian Fleming’s saga of the super-spy gave austerity-squeezed Britons a glimpse of a jet-setting life in which champagne flowed and fine food was devoured.

Now, with the UK economy growing at a slower speed than the grass in parliament square, a third of the world is expected to watch Friday’s wedding celebrations and see a vision of a glittering Britain revelling in an outpouring of pomp.

The Prime Minister should add a note of thanks to any congratulatory message he pens the young prince this week.

The chief economist at the Institute for Public Policy Research said yesterday’s GDP growth figure of 0.5% showed the UK was “as close as it is possible to come to a recession without actually being in one.” But instead of putting on sackcloth, the cream of the British establishment will shortly slip into morning dress and the nation’s thoughts will focus on a future king and queen.

Professional politicians will attack the PM and the Chancellor over the state of the recovery but in Westminster the GDP is overshadowed by the human drama surrounding the AV referendum. A cynic would argue coalition colleagues would rather make headlines about the tensions around their cabinet table than have attention concentrated on the spluttering economy.

Similarly, the crisis in Libya has transformed David Cameron into a wartime leader and also helped demonstrate that Britain, for all its creaking joints, remains one of the few countries in the world capable of taking such decisive action overseas.

Together, these three factors have ensured that the absence of a roaring recovery is not the only story in town. Inevitably, each will also shape the way Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish voters think through their choices on May 5.

Optimists will hope that Prince William’s rebranding of Britain will inject a new confidence into the nation’s entrepreneurs and that celebratory consumers will be ready to part with cash.

But public sector workers remain deeply troubled by the prospect of the cuts and many English employees in healthcare and education have zero confidence in the UK Government’s reform programme.

The construction sector remains locked in a quite dire condition and a country so long enthralled by property speculation and energised by the balance-sheet acrobatics of the City has yet to find a new avenue for wealth creation.

This means that when the royal couple return from their honeymoon they may find that the country is reeling from an almighty hangover as we squint at the glaring economic reality.

A Thursday column

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