The coalition’s year in numbers

Growth down, inflation up, public spending down, debt up – the story of the coalition in numbers.

It's now exactly a year since David Cameron and Nick Clegg stood together in the rose garden of No 10 and promised a "new politics". So, to mark the first anniversary of the coalition, I've put together some charts and graphs on the stats that define the government's year in office. Below are the numbers and a commentary on them.

History teaches us that numbers and statistics can come to define a government. Think of how the figure of three million unemployed became a shorthand for the failures of Thatcherism, or of how "Old Labour" is now remembered for marginal rates of tax as high as 98 per cent.

The current coalition will be remembered as the government that increased VAT to a record level of 20 per cent and that raised the cap on university tuition fees to £9,000. Ministers pledged that universities would charge the full amount in "exceptional circumstances" only, but of the 91 universities that have publicly announced their plans, 62 intend to charge the maximum fee.

University applications increased by just 2.1 per cent this year, compared to 15.3 per cent last year, a sign that young people are being deterred from applying even before higher fees kick in.

Nick Clegg, the man whose political credibility was destroyed by the decision to triple fees, has few reasons to be cheerful after the first year of the coalition. His approval rating has fallen from a post-debate high of +53 to -18 and support for the Liberal Democrats has plummeted from 21 per cent in May 2010 to just 8 per cent today. Chris Huhne's memorable prediction that support for his party would fall to 5 per cent may yet come true.

The Conservatives have fared significantly better. Support for David Cameron's party has fallen from a peak of 44 per cent in July 2010 to 36 per cent today but this remains the same level of support as achieved at the last general election. Cameron's own approval rating has fallen from a peak of +31 in July 2010 to -3, a poor, but not terrible, figure.

The economy continues to be plagued by a toxic combination of sluggish growth, high inflation and high unemployment. The jobless total (7.8 per cent) is slightly lower than it was a year ago, but youth unemployment, which now stands at 963,000 (20.4 per cent), has continued to rise. Private-sector employment has increased by 428,000 but public-sector workers are being laid off faster than expected, with 132,000 jobs lost over the past 12 months.

The Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast that there will be 310,000 fewer public-sector jobs by 2014-2015, a figure that now looks like an underestimate. Meanwhile, growth of just 0.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2011, which merely recovered the lost output from the previous quarter, means that the economy has not grown in the past six months.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development now expects Britain to grow at a slower pace than every other G7 economy with the exception of crisis-hit Japan. George Osborne may avoid a double-dip recession but an anaemic recovery now looks inevitable.

Party support and pproval ratings

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Source: YouGov; Ipsos MORI

The economy

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Sources: ONS; OBR Economic and Fiscal Outlook – March 2011

Employment

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Sources: ONS Labour Force Survey; OBR Economic and Fiscal Outlook – March 2011; CEBR

Higher education

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Sources: Ucas; Times Higher Education Supplement

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Four times Owen Smith has made sexist comments

The Labour MP for Pontypridd and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership rival has been accused of misogynist remarks. Again.

2016

Wanting to “smash” Theresa May “back on her heels”

During a speech at a campaign event, Owen Smith blithely deployed some aggressive imagery about attacking the new Prime Minister. In doing so, he included the tired sexist trope beloved of the right wing press about Theresa May’s shoes – her “kitten heels” have long been a fascination of certain tabloids:

“I’ll be honest with you, it pained me that we didn’t have the strength and the power and the vitality to smash her back on her heels and argue that these our values, these are our people, this is our language that they are seeking to steal.”

When called out on his comments by Sky’s Sophy Ridge, Smith doubled down:

“They love a bit of rhetoric, don’t they? We need a bit more robust rhetoric in our politics, I’m very much in favour of that. You’ll be getting that from me, and I absolutely stand by those comments. It’s rhetoric, of course. I don’t literally want to smash Theresa May back, just to be clear. I’m not advocating violence in any way, shape or form.”

Your mole dug around to see whether this is a common phrase, but all it could find was “set back on one’s heels”, which simply means to be shocked by something. Nothing to do with “smashing”, and anyway, Smith, or somebody on his team, should be aware that invoking May’s “heels” is lazy sexism at best, and calling on your party to “smash” a woman (particularly when you’ve been in trouble for comments about violence against women before – see below) is more than casual misogyny.

Arguing that misogyny in Labour didn’t exist before Jeremy Corbyn

Smith recently told BBC News that the party’s nastier side only appeared nine months ago:

“I think Jeremy should take a little more responsibility for what’s going on in the Labour party. After all, we didn’t have this sort of abuse and intolerance, misogyny, antisemitism in the Labour party before Jeremy Corbyn became the leader.”

Luckily for Smith, he had never experienced misogyny in his party until the moment it became politically useful to him… Or perhaps, not being the prime target, he simply wasn’t paying enough attention before then?

2015

Telling Leanne Wood she was only invited on TV because of her “gender”

Before a general election TV debate for ITV Wales last year, Smith was caught on camera telling the Plaid Cymru leader that she only appeared on Question Time because she is a woman:

Wood: “Have you ever done Question Time, Owen?”

Smith: “Nope, they keep putting you on instead.”

Wood: “I think with party balance there’d be other people they’d be putting on instead of you, wouldn’t they, rather than me?”

Smith: “I think it helps. I think your gender helps as well.”

Wood: “Yeah.”

2010

Comparing the Lib Dems’ experience of coalition to domestic violence

In a tasteless analogy, Smith wrote this for WalesHome in the first year of the Tory/Lib Dem coalition:

“The Lib Dem dowry of a maybe-referendum on AV [the alternative vote system] will seem neither adequate reward nor sufficient defence when the Tories confess their taste for domestic violence on our schools, hospitals and welfare provision.

“Surely, the Liberals will file for divorce as soon as the bruises start to show through the make-up?”

But never fear! He did eventually issue a non-apology for his offensive comments, with the classic use of “if”:

“I apologise if anyone has been offended by the metaphorical reference in this article, which I will now be editing. The reference was in a phrase describing today's Tory and Liberal cuts to domestic spending on schools and welfare as metaphorical ‘domestic violence’.”

***

A one-off sexist gaffe is bad enough in a wannabe future Labour leader. But your mole sniffs a worrying pattern in this list that suggests Smith doesn’t have a huge amount of respect for women, when it comes to political rhetoric at least. And it won’t do him any electoral favours either – it makes his condemnation of Corbynite nastiness ring rather hollow.

I'm a mole, innit.