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Page last updated at 14:04 GMT, Monday, 26 September 2005 15:04 UK

Brown's miracle economy

Stephanie Flanders on the Tyneside Docks
Brown's miracle economy
Sunday 25 September 2005
22:15 BST, BBC One

The Prime Minister calls him "the best chancellor for 100 years." He is the man who has overseen the longest economic expansion in modern times, and hopes one day soon to ride his economic record right into Number 10.

Panorama asks whether Gordon Brown's miracle economy is as miraculous as it seems. BBC economics reporter Stephanie Flanders examines whether we have experienced a sea-change in Britain's economic fortunes, or another old-fashioned spending binge that will eventually run dry.

As Gordon Brown prepares for a record ninth party conference as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Stephanie takes a cycling tour of Britain, to see for herself how much has really changed since 1997 - and how much has not. Along the way she interviews Brown's former right-hand man, Ed Balls, and the man who passed the Chancellorship on to Gordon Brown - Tory leadership contender, Ken Clarke.

In Cowley, Nottingham, Birmingham and the North-East, Stephanie finds an economy that has grown for a longer period than since records began - but not always with the kind of improvement in Britain's underlying performance that Gordon Brown said he wanted in 1997. In the country as a whole, exports have done badly: the trade gap has worsened every year that Labour has been in office. The productivity gap between Britain and other leading economies has barely budged and investment is at a record low.

Stephanie finds, as she travels the country, that it is spending and borrowing that has filled the gap - thanks to cheap money and cheap Asian imports. But with consumers and the Government both needing to save more and spend less, these sources of growth may be about to fall away. And outside of the Treasury, few seem very confident that there is enough left of the miracle economy to fill the gap.

Production team:
Reporter: Stephanie Flanders
Producer: Tristan Quinn
Assistant Producers:John Thynne, Patrick Barrie
Deputy Editors: Andrew Bell, Frank Simmonds
Editor: Mike Robinson
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