Did David Cameron just divulge tomorrow’s GDP figures?

The Prime Minister caused a bit of a stir earlier today by apparently hinting that tomorrow’s GDP figures might be positive. In Prime Minister’s Questions David Cameron said “the good news will keep on coming”. Apparently some traders ended up making a turn on his comments.

As you can see from this chart of the 10-year government bond rate, markets did firm up a bit in the wake of his comments shortly after 12.00, although, of course, one shouldn’t necessarily mistake correlation for causation.

The UK 10-year gilt yield (interest rate) Source: Bloomberg

It is indeed the case that by now the PM will have seen a pre-release version of the growth figures, due at 09:30 tomorrow. It is also the case, as Jonathan Portes points out, that Mr Cameron would be breaking the rules if he had indeed divulged the direction of the trend in these closely-guarded stats.

However, it’s worth saying two things in Mr Cameron’s defence. The first is that his allusion wasn’t specifically to GDP – or indeed to a release tomorrow. He made a hint but he has plausible deniability as he could claim that he was merely basing his comments on independent forecasts for the economy.

Second, if he has divulged the stats, he wouldn’t be the first Prime Minister to do so. Back in 2006 Tony Blair actually told delegates at the TUC Conference that employment was about to improve. It was a more flagrant (although not, he argued intentional) breach of the statistical code and Mr Blair had to apologise. So even if it does transpire that this was a real solecism from Cameron and he ends up apologising, it’s only further reinforcement of his reputation as the self-styled “heir to Blair”.