GDP rebounds but Tory leadership hopefuls must set out plan for growth

After a long day of cajoling fellow MPs, Tory leadership candidates may have been cheered by some unexpected economic good news. GDP rose by 0.5 per cent in May, raising the prospect that the UK can avoid a recession.

Output benefited from a large rise in activity in the health sector, with patients rushing to book GP appointments following the lifting of Covid restrictions, as well as the travel sector, as holidaymakers have tried — not always successfully — to get away.

However, our next prime minister will be aware that the economy remains in a fragile state. Most City economists predict GDP will contract in the second quarter of the year, with a recession possible as the average energy bill soars to £3,000 in the autumn and beyond in the new year.

As a result, it will require something greater than ever-wilder promises on tax cuts to get the economy on a sound footing. Britain’s next prime minister must prioritise economic growth and shielding the worst-off from the cost-of-living crisis.

With further interest rate rises a near-certainty — the Governor of the Bank of England has reaffirmed his intention to return inflation to its target of two per cent — difficult months lie ahead. The British people, the overwhelming majority of whom will not have a say in selecting the next leader, are entitled to expect a government that is prepared to do whatever it takes to get our economy back on track.

Ulez is worth the pain

Expanding the ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) to the entirety of Greater London was never going to be universally popular. Doing it during a cost-of-living crisis makes that task harder still. As such, the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, is being urged to postpone the rollout.

But there is still good reason to stay the course. Toxic air continues to blight every part of our city and it cuts lives short. Around 4,000 Londoners die prematurely every year due to air pollution.

Instead of delaying, we need to support Londoners. That means further investment in the car scrappage scheme, with the latest figures showing that only one in three who applied for help to scrap a polluting vehicle received financial support from TfL. Our city is also crying out for more electric vehicle charging points to make the switch easier, and a long-term financial settlement for TfL.

The prize on offer — clean air — is worth fighting for.

Keep the rivers clean

How do you know if someone is into wild swimming? They’ll tell you. Swimming pools have been rendered passé as the latest craze swamps the capital, from the Heath to the Hackney Riviera.

But as we report in today’s paper, campaigners are warning that the River Lea at Hackney Marshes is one of the most polluted in the country. Indeed, a report two years ago found that for more than 1,000 hours in 2019, a Thames Water overflow pipe had discharged raw sewage into the area.

As more people take to wild swimming, we must keep these natural spots clean. For the sake of our health, and the endless queues for the local lido.