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.

Photo: Getty
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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.