Wartime boom

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There is at least one area of the economy doing well.

Taxpayers have given some £148 million over the past three years to mercenary groups such as former Tory minister Malcolm Rifkind's ArmorGroup (the market leader, now part of the G4S security company).

Firms were awarded £42 million for 2008-9 for their work in Afghanistan - double the amount allocated to "security" work in Iraq during the same period.

But if the whole "war on terror" thing doesn't pan out well, G4S can always fall back on its other services in Britain. According to its website, these include managing four prisons, monitoring 12,000 electronically tagged offenders and "around 53 million visits to UK properties a year to take meter readings for utility companies".