The truth about the cuts/deficit debate, part 77

My economists <em>v</em> George Osborne’s economists . . .

Since David Cameron is going to do a version of "Labour gave us a crazy deficit, it's worse than we thought, we have to cut, cut, cut and everyone in the world backs us" in his big conference speech this afternoon, I thought I'd do a pre-emptive blog post on the two (yes, two!) sides to the deficit reduction argument.

The Chancellor, George Osborne, in perhaps the most disingenuous and immature section of his speech on Monday, deliberately mischaracterised the two sides when he said:

There are two sides to this argument.

On one side, there is the IMF, the OECD, the credit rating agencies, the bond markets, the European Commission, the Confederation of British Industry, the Institute of Directors, the British Chambers of Commerce, the Governor of the Bank of England, most of British business, two of our great historic political parties, one of the Miliband brothers, Tony Blair and the British people.

On the other side is Ed Miliband and the trade union leaders who put him where he is.

No, George, on the other side are:

* Barack Obama

* Ben Bernanke

* Tim Geithner

* Paul Krugman

* Joseph Stiglitz

* George Soros

* Richard Freeman

* Robert Reich

* Brad DeLong

* David Blanchflower

* Martin Wolf

* Samuel Brittan

* Anatole Kaletsky

* Robert Skidelsky

For a longer list of leading economists (including other Nobel prizewinners and ex-members of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee) who back the Ed Miliband/trade union position on slower, less draconian cuts, see this letter in the Financial Times from February this year.

As for invoking the support of the "British people", a recent Populus poll found that only one in five voters — 22 per cent — agreed with the coalition's plan to deal with the deficit by 2015.

Oh, and on a side note, I must point out that Osborne's "backers" include most of the institutions that failed to foresee the financial crash and the recent recession — the Bank of England, the ratings agencies, the IMF, etc. Typical . . .

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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“I felt very lonely”: addressing the untold story of isolation among young mothers

With one in five young mothers lonely “all the time”, it’s time for employers and services to step up.

“Despite having my child with me all the time, I felt very lonely,” says Laura Davies. A member of an advisory panel for the Young Women’s Trust, she had her son age 20. Now, with a new report suggesting that one in five young mums “feels lonely all the time”, she’s sharing her story.

Polling commissioned by the Young Women’s Trust has highlighted the isolation that young motherhood can bring. Of course, getting out and about the same as you did before is never easy once there’s a young child in the picture. For young mothers, however, the situation can be particularly difficult.

According to the report, over a quarter of young mothers leave the house just once a week or less, with some leaving just once a month.

Aside from all the usual challenges – like wrestling a colicky infant into their jacket, or pumping milk for the trip with one hand while making sure no-one is crawling into anything dangerous with the other – young mothers are more likely to suffer from a lack of support network, or to lack the confidence to approach mother-baby groups and other organisations designed to help. In fact, some 68 per cent of young mothers said they had felt unwelcome in a parent and toddler group.

Davies paints what research suggests is a common picture.

“Motherhood had alienated me from my past. While all my friends were off forging a future for themselves, I was under a mountain of baby clothes trying to navigate my new life. Our schedules were different and it became hard to find the time.”

“No one ever tells you that when you have a child you will feel an overwhelming sense of love that you cannot describe, but also an overwhelming sense of loneliness when you realise that your life won’t be the same again.

More than half of 16 to 24-year-olds surveyed said that they felt lonelier since becoming a mother, with more than two-thirds saying they had fewer friends than before. Yet making new friends can be hard, too, especially given the judgement young mothers can face. In fact, 73 per cent of young mothers polled said they’d experienced rudeness or unpleasant behaviour when out with their children in public.

As Davies puts it, “Trying to find mum friends when your self-confidence is at rock bottom is daunting. I found it easier to reach out for support online than meet people face to face. Knowing they couldn’t judge me on my age gave me comfort.”

While online support can help, however, loneliness can still become a problem without friends to visit or a workplace to go to. Many young mothers said they would be pleased to go back to work – and would prefer to earn money rather than rely on benefits. After all, typing some invoices, or getting back on the tills, doesn’t just mean a paycheck – it’s also a change to speak to someone old enough to understand the words “type”, “invoice” and “till”.

As Young Women’s Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton explains, “More support is needed for young mothers who want to work. This could include mentoring to help ease women’s move back into education or employment.”

But mothers going back to work don’t only have to grapple with childcare arrangements, time management and their own self-confidence – they also have to negotiate with employers. Although the 2003 Employment Act introduced the right for parents of young children to apply to work flexibly, there is no obligation for their employer to agree. (Even though 83 per cent of women surveyed by the Young Women’s Trust said flexible hours would help them find secure work, 26 per cent said they had had a request turned down.)

Dr Easton concludes: “The report recommends access to affordable childcare, better support for young women at job centres and advertising jobs on a flexible, part-time or job share basis by default.”

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland