Osborne is misleading voters on employment

The Chancellor's claim that "800,000 new jobs" have been created since the election is a myth.

One of George Osborne's favourite boasts is that 800,000 new private sector jobs have been created since the election. Last week, after the release of the stunningly bad GDP figures, he claimed that "We’ve made progress over the past two years in cutting the deficit by 25 per cent and creating over 800,000 new jobs." He was at it again in Saturday's Metro, writing that "we've seen the benefits already of our pro-business approach. Unemployment has been falling, where in other countries like the US it has risen. Over 800,000 new jobs in the private sector have been created." The Treasury repeated the claim on Twitter.

Similarly, at Prime Minister's Questions on 11 July, David Cameron declared: "It was under this government that we got 800,000 more private sector jobs"

It's an impressive figure but, unfortunately for Cameron and Osborne, it's also completely false. According to the most recent ONS figures, private sector employment has risen by 843,000 since March 2010 but, as Osborne wants you to forget, the coalition wasn't elected until May. If we look at job creation since then, we find that the increase is actually 529,000, with a concurrent loss of 393,000 public sector jobs (who said that the cuts aren't happening?)

Yet the 800,000 figure appeared unchallenged in almost every paper and on every news channel over the weekend. With the economy now smaller than it was at the time of the election and 4.5 per cent below its 2008 peak, Osborne's desire to massage his record is understandable. But while he can make as many wrong-headed arguments for austerity as he likes, he should not be allowed to mislead voters with bogus statistics.

Update: I've just written to the UK Statistics Authority requesting that they ask Cameron and Osborne to retract the claim.

Contrary to George Osborne, 800,000 private sector jobs have not been created since the election. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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John McDonnell praises New Labour as he enters conciliatory mode

The shadow chancellor sought to build a bridge between the past and the present by crediting the 1997 government. 

Ever since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader, John McDonnell has been on a mission to reinvent himself as a kinder, gentler politician. He hasn’t always succeeded. In July, the shadow chancellor declared of rebel MPs: “As plotters they were fucking useless”.

But in his Labour conference speech, Corbyn’s closest ally was firmly in conciliatory mode. McDonnell thanked Owen Smith for his part in defeating the Personal Independence Payment cuts. He praised Caroline Flint, with whom he has clashed, for her amendment to the financial bill on corporate tax transparency. Jonathan Reynolds, who will soon return to the frontbench, was credited for the “patriots pay their taxes” campaign (the latter two not mentioned in the original text).

McDonnell’s ecunmenicism didn’t end here. The 1997 Labour government, against which he and Corbyn so often defined themselves, was praised for its introduction of the minimum wage (though McDonnell couldn’t quite bring himself to mention Tony Blair). Promising a “real Living Wage” of around £10 per hour, the shadow chancellor sought to build a bridge between the past and the present. Though he couldn’t resist adding some red water as he closed: “In this party you no longer have to whisper it, it's called socialism. Solidarity!”

As a rebuke to those who accuse him of seeking power in the party, not the country, McDonnell spoke relentlessly of what the next Labour “government” would do. He promised a £250bn National Investment Bank, a “Right to Own” for employees, the repeal of the Trade Union Act and declared himself “interested” in the potential of a Universal Basic Income. It was a decidedly wonkish speech, free of the attack lines and jokes that others serve up.

One of the more striking passages was on McDonnell’s personal story (a recurring feature of Labour speeches since Sadiq Khan’s mayoral victory). “I was born in the city [Liverpool], not far from here,” he recalled. “My dad was a Liverpool docker and my mum was a cleaner who then served behind the counter at British Homes Stores for 30 years. I was part of the 1960's generation.  We lived in what sociological studies have described as some of the worst housing conditions that exist within this country. We just called it home.”

In his peroration, he declared: “In the birthplace of John Lennon, it falls to us to inspire people to imagine.” Most Labour MPs believe that a government led by Corbyn and McDonnell will remain just that: imaginary. “You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one,” the shadow chancellor could have countered. With his praise for New Labour, he began the work of forging his party’s own brotherhood of man.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.