Does the coalition mid-term review change the dynamic?

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After spending most of today looking at the numbers of one of our biggest businesses, Morrisons, I've just been reading through the coalition's Mid-Term Review.

Morrisons has seen sales compared to last year drop by 2.5 percent and in the commercial world that puts their strategy firmly under the microscope.

But what would happen if we were to put the Government's performance under an equally harsh lens?

Morrisons reported "disappointing" Christmas trading results
Morrisons reported "disappointing" Christmas trading results Credit: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Well don't expect new ideas that would make the 'shareholders', us I suppose, fizz with excitement. The Government is sticking to its broad plan for the economy - the detail mainly promises more of the same.

The report, which runs to more than 46 pages, is much more of an update on progress so far than a taste of what is to come. And by many measures, progress is not very impressive.

It is important to say up front that the Government inherited difficult circumstances and the conditions in other parts of the world have made things much harder. But on the targets they set themselves they have fallen far behind.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Prime Minister David Cameron at a Downing Street press conference to launch their Mid-Term Review
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Prime Minister David Cameron at a Downing Street press conference to launch their Mid-Term Review Credit: Alastair Grant/PA Wire

For some time now, and again today, ministers have reminded us that they have cut the deficit by a quarter. But by this stage in the Parliament they had hoped to cut it by more than half. (Deficit is the gap between what the Government spends and what it collects from taxes each year.)

Debt, which was also meant to be falling as a share of all we make and sell (GDP) by 2015, will still be climbing past that date. It is now hovering at around three quarters of GDP - more than a trillion pounds. (Debt is the total that rolls up year after year if you don't pay your deficits off).

A Conservative Billboard advertisement for the 2010 general election
A Conservative Billboard advertisement for the 2010 general election Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Yes, the coalition points out that more than a million jobs have been created. That is of course welcome. But along with record numbers of start-up companies are record numbers of part-time jobs. And wages have been lagging behind inflation, so for millions of families purse strings have been pulled tighter and tighter.

The views of many in the business community are summed up caustically by the CBI which still backs the Government's efforts to slow down spending, but talks of "disappointing delivery" and attempts to get growth going being "bogged down" all too often.

It seems perhaps that one of the early criticisms of the Government still has a ring of truth. Their promise of balancing the books was impressive in its clarity and boldness. But it would be harder than they hoped to deliver and the early focus on that goal did not leave enough energy for getting the economy going.

The Government points out that more than a million jobs have been created
The Government points out that more than a million jobs have been created Credit: Ian Nicholson/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Unlike Morrisons, of course, the coalition does not have a Sainsbury or Tesco - an equal rival fighting for custom. However good or not the opposition is - and that is a separate debate - there is no parallel universe where we can compare how others are doing the same job.

Yet as the Government sometimes illustrates public sector failings by pointing out private sector success, it is worth just briefly turning the mirror back the other way.

If the coalition were a business its shareholders might have a good deal more than a 2.5 percent drop in sales to worry about.

They may well be wondering if this is a good time to sell.