In some government circles, the excitement before Britain’s opening-up and return to something like normality is making ministers giddy.

Grant Shapps says everyone may start booking a foreign holiday now that he is at work revamping last year’s colour-coded map of the world. With a traffic-light system of testing and quarantine rules in place, it is likely that nowhere will be out of bounds for Britons to visit. Inside No 10, last year’s recession is forgotten and the possibilities during the second half of the year are considered to be almost boundless.

Just the thought of public gatherings and nights at the theatre has allowed the prime minister to relax back into his pie-and-a-pint bonhomie, setting aside the accusations of bungling and lying so eloquently laid out in Peter Oborne’s book The Assault on Truth, or the way Brexit seems to be hastening the breakup of Britain’s union of nations.

In recent weeks, every forecast of economic growth has acquired a healthier glow. Last week, the International Monetary Fund added its voice to those saying the global economy – and the UK’s in particular – would enjoy a broader and faster expansion than previously estimated. The UK is expected to grow by 5.3% in 2021 and by 5.1% in 2022, making it the fastest-growing G7 country at the end of the forecast period.

Senior figures at the Bank of England have fuelled the prime minister’s sense that a period of unalloyed jollity, singing and dancing is within sight by using phrases such as “coiled spring” to describe the strength of the bounce-back. Investment bank economists and business groups paint a similar picture: one where Britain looks like a hive of activity, wheeling and dealing its way to prosperity in a way that boosts the traditional measure of national income – GDP.

Policies masquerade as strategic when the only consistent thing about them is that they are tactical

It is clear, though, that all the talk of reinventing the post-Covid economy has so far been just that: talk.

Last week’s Halifax house price data showed that traditional markers of success remain paramount inside Downing Street. House prices gained


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