Is there any truth to the rumour (started within less than a metre of Billy's office chair) that the International Monetary Fund are considering hiring out-of-work Mr Philip Schofield as their new media frontman? The principal difference between the two monoliths of smooth infomockery (a word the NTI newsroom are trialling to see if it sticks) is that the IMF have never heard of Holly Willoughby and Mr Schofield wishes he hadn't.
Any sentence starting with the premise that 'The IMF thinks' is probably over-stating the truth, but it is reported this morning (Tuesday 23 May) that the IMF thinks that the British economy will expand by 0.4 per cent this year, a revision from the 0.3 per cent contraction that it forecast in April. To be clear, that is not so much of a U-turn as a full handbrake turn, replete with rubber scented smoke and eardrum-bursting squealing. To our shame we in the newsroom reported the IMF's concern last month, at a time many others were predicting the UK would avoid a recession in 2023 and are now super-ashamed to admit we gave airspace to their nonsense.
To confess to a calamitous misrepresentation of an entire nation's financial and economic prospects from minus 0.3 to plus 0.4 in the space of less than 30 days is equivalent to the IMF lauding their brother for being a super-being last month and now announcing "they have no brother" this. You couldn't make it up, could you?
It still leaves the UK behind France and Italy, whose economies the IMF are predicting will grow by 0.7 per cent this year, but just give it a month. Of the 2,400 people who work for the IMF in 160 countries, 60 or 70 are probably already scratching their calculators as we type, working out that 0.4 per cent growth is much the same as 0.7 or 0.8 and will pass this information under the noses of anyone who will read it prior to their next pronouncement. They are just getting wind of the global fall in energy prices and the positives of the post-Brexit trading environment in Northern Ireland, so when they get to hear that Liz Truss in no longer prime minister and that we have a new monarch all bets are off as to what they will announce for us next.
It is reported that the IMF's figures were decided upon after the Fund’s officials concluded a two-week mission in the UK to assess the state of the economy before its regular annual assessment report. Over several delicious lunches and a picnic in the sun over the weekend everything seemed lots brighter and they came up with a number we can all be much more proud of.
IMF officials have conducted an internal review of their UK forecasts and found that they have not been considerably worse than other institutions given the high degree of uncertainty around all growth projections following the war in Ukraine. Philip Schofield and his family conducted a similar internal review of his image and reported it to be as bright and breezy as ever it was.