If the economy decides elections, Rishi Sunak looks doomed

The second slogan that James Carville wrote on the white board in the Bill Clinton campaign war room in 1992 was: “The economy, stupid.” I am not allowed to mention it, because it became such a cliche, especially with an erroneous “it’s” in front of it, that I had to put it on the Banned List, but it remains an eternal truth of winning and losing elections.

George HW Bush lost to Clinton mainly because the US economy went into recession at the wrong time in the electoral cycle. Hence the significance of today’s headlines in Britain, suggesting that the economy will shrink by 0.3 per cent this year, with the IMF predicting that the UK will be the worst performer in the G7.

By coincidence, the Carville doctrine has been put to the test in a working paper published today by Professor Stephen Fisher of Oxford University, which looks at UK general elections since 1922 and the state of the economy. It concludes that “governments in the UK tend to win elections, but lose if there is an economic crisis”.


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