Youth unemployment hits new record high

Total number of people out of work hits 2.53 million, the highest in 17 years, as joblessness among

Unemployment has topped 2.5 million for the first time in a decade. The number of people out of work increased by 27,000 in the three months to January, bringing the total to 2.53 million.

Youth unemployment has also hit a new record high. Those between the ages of 18 and 24 seeking work are 20.6 per cent of the total, an increase of 0.8 per cent on last month's figures and the highest since records began in 1992.

The steady growth in youth unemployment is a grave concern, one that our economics editor, David Blanchflower, has covered extensively.

As he wrote yesterday:

A major concern is that the government is responding to the problem by trying to lower the youth unemployment statistics rather than reducing youth unemployment itself. Iain Duncan Smith has apparently written to the Office of National Statistics trying to get them to lower the figures. There remains a real danger that large numbers of youngsters will become a lost generation.

It's also worth noting that there was a big jump this month in the number of unemployed in full-time education, up from 274,000 to 284,000. It is this group – people who are studying, but need a part-time job as well – that Duncan Smith reportedly wants to exclude from youth unemployment figures

With the abolition of EMA and the Future Jobs Fund, several options for young people have been removed (my colleague Sophie Elmhirst recently reported on the "lost generation"). We can only hope that next week's Budget spells out a clear strategy for growth and specifically for tackling the mounting crisis facing Britain's younger generation.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

Grant Shapps on the campaign trail. Photo: Getty
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Grant Shapps resigns over Tory youth wing bullying scandal

The minister, formerly party chairman, has resigned over allegations of bullying and blackmail made against a Tory activist. 

Grant Shapps, who was a key figure in the Tory general election campaign, has resigned following allegations about a bullying scandal among Conservative activists.

Shapps was formerly party chairman, but was demoted to international development minister after May. His formal statement is expected shortly.

The resignation follows lurid claims about bullying and blackmail among Tory activists. One, Mark Clarke, has been accused of putting pressure on a fellow activist who complained about his behaviour to withdraw the allegation. The complainant, Elliot Johnson, later killed himself.

The junior Treasury minister Robert Halfon also revealed that he had an affair with a young activist after being warned that Clarke planned to blackmail him over the relationship. Former Tory chair Sayeedi Warsi says that she was targeted by Clarke on Twitter, where he tried to portray her as an anti-semite. 

Shapps appointed Mark Clarke to run RoadTrip 2015, where young Tory activists toured key marginals on a bus before the general election. 

Today, the Guardian published an emotional interview with the parents of 21-year-old Elliot Johnson, the activist who killed himself, in which they called for Shapps to consider his position. Ray Johnson also spoke to BBC's Newsnight:


The Johnson family claimed that Shapps and co-chair Andrew Feldman had failed to act on complaints made against Clarke. Feldman says he did not hear of the bullying claims until August. 

Asked about the case at a conference in Malta, David Cameron pointedly refused to offer Shapps his full backing, saying a statement would be released. “I think it is important that on the tragic case that took place that the coroner’s inquiry is allowed to proceed properly," he added. “I feel deeply for his parents, It is an appalling loss to suffer and that is why it is so important there is a proper coroner’s inquiry. In terms of what the Conservative party should do, there should be and there is a proper inquiry that asks all the questions as people come forward. That will take place. It is a tragic loss of a talented young life and it is not something any parent should go through and I feel for them deeply.” 

Mark Clarke denies any wrongdoing.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.