How Cameron misled MPs on living standards

The PM's claim that individuals' disposable income rose last year is not supported by the data.

As Ed Miliband charged him with presiding over a "cost-of-living crisis" at today's PMQs, David Cameron made an eye-catching claim:

What you have to do is look at disposable income as well as wages. Because this government has cut people's taxes, because we are allowing people to keep £10,000 of what they earn before they pay taxes, disposable income went up last year and it is rising as we speak today.

Given that, as Miliband stated, real wages have fallen for 39 of the 40 months that Cameron has been Prime Minister (the exception being April 2013 when deferred bonuses were paid out following the abolition of the 50p tax rate) how can he state that "disposable income went up last year"?

The PM's claim relates to the fact that real household disposable income rose by 1.6% in 2012. This, crucially, is not a measure of individuals' spending power (as Cameron implied), or of average household income, but the figure reached when all households' post-tax income is added together. Since the number of households increases each year (raising the absolute figure), this is a poor guide to living standards.

A better measure is the rate of average weekly earnings growth, which stood at just 0.7% in June-August, a 2% real-terms cut with inflation at 2.7% (the highest level in the EU). Even on the Tories' preferred metric, the picture is a grim one. In the most recent quarter, real household disposable income fell by 0.7% year-on-year. As much as he may wish otherwise, Cameron hasn't got a good story to tell on living standards yet.

David Cameron listens to questions from journalists at Stormont Castle in Belfast, Northern Ireland on October 11, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Changing the Gender Recognition Act won't solve discrimination

There is an urgent need to re-establish the status quo, ensuring that transsexual people can be correctly identified and their rights supported and reinforced. 

The Government's recent announcement of a review to the current Gender Recognition Act - the right to legally change gender - has been given the full support of the the leader of the Labour Party with his proclamation that to comply with the act requires "invasive" medical treatment.

Like many people, Jeremy Corbyn has not read the 2004 Act nor understands its consequences, or the reason for its existence, particularly in relation to discrimination, which in essence the 2004 Gender Recognition Act does very little if nothing to fight. To clarify, there is absolutely no need whatsoever for any surgery or treatment, as some people are not fit nor able to undergo any form of medical intervention.

When we come to discrimination there is a blatant failure by organisations to educate their workforce about the rights of transsexual people. This is made worse by the perpetual use of the word "transgender" - originally a derogatory American slang word, which fails to differentiate between individuals who wear clothes of the opposite gender for whatever reason and those who genuinely feel they were born in the wrong bodies.

Close examination of any discrimination legislation reveals the only word used to describe people born in the wrong body, that is, "transsexual". So widespread is the use of the word transgender by the media, including the BBC, that the public, as well as parliament, insists on using it. Yet "transgender" is not in legislation for a very good reason. Transgender has no legal definition, even being used to describe people who are not transsexual but transvestite (people who wear the clothes of the opposite gender).

There is an urgent need to re-establish the status quo, ensuring that transsexual people can be correctly identified and their rights supported and reinforced. The public is confused, parliament is confused, the media is confused. All of them assign rights that belong specifically to a small minority of people, widely persecuted and discriminated against, to people who have no specific right to protection and do not suffer the same levels and degrees of discrimination a transsexual person does.This adds to the woes of a very small group whose voice is hardly heard, if it is listened to at all, instead being drowned out by cross-dressers, transvestites, drag kings and queens, gender queer and non-binary people and a plethora of others claiming all sorts of gender difference, which are difficult if not next to impossible to define.

The publication by the BBC of details of pay to the men and women it employs has highlighted a difference in our society that should not exist but does. The vote to leave the EU has also brought about a meteoric rise in racism, which everyone thought had been dealt with by legislation. It has not. Clear legislation needs to be reinforced by action. These are two examples where legislation has failed and has detrimental consequences for individuals.  The issue is no different for transsexual people; the law needs to be followed by actions.

The key mover in changing our society to accept difference is education, yet governments consistently fail to ensure either that a compulsory policy of Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) is implemented. Discrimination at all levels is allowed to continue. Ofsted staff have no clear understanding of the nine protected characteristics in the 2010 Equality Act; like many organisations they confuse "gender" with "gender re-assignment" by omitting the latter entirely. In Wales the compulsory policy is not implemented because the Welsh Government is too afraid of parents' reaction to compulsory SRE.

If the Labour party and the governments in the UK want to effectively help transsexual people then they need to speak to those people directly, not organistions claiming to represent all and sundry about the issues transsexual people face in society. Politicians should also stop tinkering with something which successive governments are not effectively policing and supporting in the first place.

The writer is a transsexual woman living in Wales. A pseudonym has been used.