Chancellor Philip Hammond has been forced onto the defensive on Friday, as quarterly GDP growth slowed to 0.3% in the first few months of 2017.
The official figure represents the slowest growth rate since the first quarter of 2016, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS). The ONS originally forecasted the economy to slow down to a lesser extent, to 0.4% rather than the 0.3% figure it published on Friday.
In defence, Hammond (pictured) argued employment was at "its highest ever rate" and was set to keep climbing.
Ahead of the General Election on 8 June, he told Sky News: "The British economy is resilient and the choice facing the British people on June 8th is between five more years of strong, stable government under Theresa May, that will lock that economic progress in and get the best possible Brexit deal for Britain, or a coalition of chaos under Jeremy Corbyn that will crash our economy again."
GDP grew 0.7% in the last three months of 2016, following its 0.5% growth in the quarter before, but the ONS attributed the unexpectedly harsh slowdown to services growth dropping from 0.8% to 0.3% quarter-to-quarter. The figure is a first estimate, however, and could be subject to revision.
Choice facing the British ppl: strong & stable Govt w/ T May to lock in econ progress vs J Corbyn's coalition of chaos-a risk to our economy— Philip Hammond (@PHammondMP) 28 April 2017
In response to the figures and Hammond's comments, shadow Chancellor John McDonnell took to Twitter claiming the slow growth represented a "threat to living standards" under the Tories.
He said: "Growth for the first three months of 2017 was only half of what was expected. It comes on the back of new forecasts last week from leading independent forecasters showing growth and earnings expectations slashed and inflation revised up.
"There is no hiding from the truth. The Tories' economic plan has undermined the UK economy and is a threat to working people's living standards."
Today's GDP figures reveal the threat to living standards under the Tories https://t.co/RPkjnfR9cf— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) 28 April 2017
Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Kramer took on a different tactic, claiming on Twitter the Chancellor had gone into hiding on Friday following the release of the figures, although this was shortly before Hammond responded.
She was not the only one to notice Hammond's early radio silence, however, with various political commentators noting the Tories' unusually quiet morning of campaigning.
"This suggests the Brexit slowdown is beginning to take effect, as prices rise and the consumer spending that has buoyed our economy plummets," Kramer added.
"But the bad news will only get worse if the Conservatives are allowed to pursue their hard Brexit agenda and put our economy and jobs at risk."
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