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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The Tinder dating app isn't just about sex – it's about friendship, too. And sex

The lines between sex, love and friendship are blurrier than ever, as I found out quickly while using the app.

The first time I met someone using Tinder, the free dating app that requires users to swipe left for “no” and right for “yes” before enabling new “matches” to chat, it was an unqualified success. I should probably qualify that. I was newly single after five years in a committed relationship and wasn’t looking for anything more than fun, friendship and, well, who knows. A few weeks earlier I had tried to give my number to a girl in a cinema café in Brixton. I wrote it on a postcard I’d been using as a bookmark. She said she had a boyfriend, but wanted to keep the postcard. I had no date and I lost my page.

My Tinder date was a master’s student from Valencia called Anna (her name wasn’t really Anna, of course, I’m not a sociopath). When I arrived at the appointed meeting place, she told me I was far more handsome IRL (“in real life”) than my pictures suggested. I was flattered and full of praise for the directness of continental Europeans but also thought sadly to myself: “If only the same could be said about you.”

Anna and I became friends, at least for a while. The date wasn’t a success in the traditional sense of leading us into a contract based on exclusivity, an accumulating cache of resentments and a mortgage, but it had put me back in the game (an appropriate metaphor – people speak regularly of “playing” with the app).

According to Sean Rad, the co-founder who launched Tinder in late 2012, the service was invented for people like me. “It was really a way to overcome my own problems,” he told the editor of Cosmopolitan at an event in London last month. “It was weird to me, to start a conversation [with a stranger]. Once I had an introduction I was fine, but it’s that first step. It’s difficult for a lot of people.” After just one outing, I’d learned two fundamental lessons about the world of online dating: pretty much everyone has at least one decent picture of themselves, and meeting women using a so-called hook-up app is seldom straightforwardly about sex.

Although sometimes it is. My second Tinder date took place in Vienna. I met Louisa (ditto, name) outside some notable church or other one evening while visiting on holiday (Tinder tourism being, in my view, a far more compelling way to get to know a place than a cumbersome Lonely Planet guide). We drank cocktails by the Danube and rambled across the city before making the romantic decision to stay awake all night, as she had to leave early the next day to go hiking with friends. It was just like the Richard Linklater movie Before Sunrise – something I said out loud more than a few times as the Aperol Spritzes took their toll.

When we met up in London a few months later, Louisa and I decided to skip the second part of Linklater’s beautiful triptych and fast-track our relationship straight to the third, Before Midnight, which takes place 18 years after the protagonists’ first meet in Vienna, and have begun to discover that they hate each others’ guts.

Which is one of the many hazards of the swiping life: unlike with older, web-based platforms such as Match.com or OkCupid, which require a substantial written profile, Tinder users know relatively little about their prospective mates. All that’s necessary is a Facebook account and a single photograph. University, occupation, a short bio and mutual Facebook “likes” are optional (my bio is made up entirely of emojis: the pizza slice, the dancing lady, the stack of books).

Worse still, you will see people you know on Tinder – that includes colleagues, neighbours and exes – and they will see you. Far more people swipe out of boredom or curiosity than are ever likely to want to meet up, in part because swiping is so brain-corrosively addictive.

While the company is cagey about its user data, we know that Tinder has been downloaded over 100 million times and has produced upwards of 11 billion matches – though the number of people who have made contact will be far lower. It may sound like a lot but the Tinder user-base remains stuck at around the 50 million mark: a self-selecting coterie of mainly urban, reasonably affluent, generally white men and women, mostly aged between 18 and 34.

A new generation of apps – such as Hey! Vina and Skout – is seeking to capitalise on Tinder’s reputation as a portal for sleaze, a charge Sean Rad was keen to deny at the London event. Tinder is working on a new iteration, Tinder Social, for groups of friends who want to hang out with other groups on a night out, rather than dating. This makes sense for a relatively fresh business determined to keep on growing: more people are in relationships than out of them, after all.

After two years of using Tinder, off and on, last weekend I deleted the app. I had been visiting a friend in Sweden, and took it pretty badly when a Tinder date invited me to a terrible nightclub, only to take a few looks at me and bolt without even bothering to fabricate an excuse. But on the plane back to London the next day, a strange thing happened. Before takeoff, the woman sitting beside me started crying. I assumed something bad had happened but she explained that she was terrified of flying. Almost as terrified, it turned out, as I am. We wound up holding hands through a horrific patch of mid-air turbulence, exchanged anecdotes to distract ourselves and even, when we were safely in sight of the ground, a kiss.

She’s in my phone, but as a contact on Facebook rather than an avatar on a dating app. I’ll probably never see her again but who knows. People connect in strange new ways all the time. The lines between sex, love and friendship are blurrier than ever, but you can be sure that if you look closely at the lines, you’ll almost certainly notice the pixels.

Philip Maughan is Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 26 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit odd squad