Cameron misleads parliament on jobs figures

The PM falsely claimed that 500,000 private-sector jobs had been created since the election.

One of David Cameron's favourite myths is that half a million private-sector jobs have been created "since the election". He repeated it at today's PMQs. Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, the data tells a different story.

Since March 2010, private sector employment has risen by 575,000 but Cameron's use of the phrase "since the election" means that any figures from before 6 May are irrelevant. However, to complicate matters, the Office for National Statistics figures in question straddle the election, covering 1 April to 30 June. But the fact that private-sector employment has risen by just 264,000 since June 2010, means that, as Channel 4's Cathy Newman has previously noted, Cameron's claim only holds good if we assume that 236,000 jobs were created between 6 May and 30 June. The ONS doesn't publish month-by-month figures but the data that we do have suggests that the majority of job creation in Q2 2010 took place before the election. The ONS's "experimental" labour force figures show that 129,000 jobs were created in April 2010 but that 89,000 were lost in June.


Cameron and George Osborne have consistently claimed that private-sector job creation will "far outweigh" the job losses in the public-sector. But in the last year, 240,000 public-sector jobs have been lost and 264,000 private-sector jobs have been created, a net increase of just 24,000 [see graph]. Worse, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development [CIPD] has predicted that 610,000 public-sector jobs will be lost by 2016, 210,000 more than forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility [see Box 3.6 on p. 73 of the OBR's Economic and Fiscal Outlook].

You don't need to be a statist social democrat to be troubled by this prediction. Every public-sector job that is cut costs the state around £8-10,000 in benefits and lost taxes. The CIPD, hardly a hotbed of radicalism, has called for the government to halt its public sector job cuts until the private sector has recovered. If Osborne wants to avoid even worse unemployment figures, he should follow their advice.

P.S. Don't miss our special Plan B package in tomorrow's issue. Nine of the world's top economists, including Noble Prize winner Christopher Pissarides, Jeffrey Sachs and Robert Skidelsky present George Osborne with their alternatives to austerity.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.