Jobs talk stalled by Freudian slip (October 15, 2014)

Today was supposed to be “Jobs Day”. The ONS released the employment figures for June-August and rolling news quickly weighed in with the typically insightful “Unemployment falls to 6%, a good day for David Cameron/Osborne/Conservatives” and Labour scrambled to counter by pointing to the fact that whilst good the numbers weren’t perfect and there were some points ripe for debate. Standard fare, and the lines were being set for arguments along the following lines: (CON) headline unemployment is down to 6% and is thus the lowest since Lehman, (LAB) the percentage of people working two jobs has increased 5.6% on the year, (CON) our long term economic plan is working and we’re one of the best performing western nations in employment levels, (LAB) there are signs that people are voluntarily leaving the work force which typically means they’ve just given up looking for jobs which means the numbers are shaky.

Slightly data driven arguments but important ones in assessing what weight we should give the figures and the resulting impact they should have on policy. But neither side were getting too deep into it, they were staying loose for the post-PMQ slug fest; the first bout since the leaders got back from convention system..

And unfortunately this is when it stopped being Jobs Day. Banging the drum of Tory detachment, Miliband whipped out his Top Toff card of the day : Lord Freud, specialist power : incoherent (honestly read them) and idiotic comments implying that those with disabilities do not deserve the full amount of the minimum wage. Scandalous Tories, out of touch, hate the poor; I get it. Labour were having a crappy day and needed a shield; and this was a pretty good one. Cynics (e.g. yours truly) would note that Freud made his comments two weeks ago and it’s going to be hard to persuade me that Labour haven’t been sitting on these comments for the last two weeks just waiting for this sort of data at which point they were going to get all Hogwarts and drop the dark arts into our muggle world. A worrying sign ahead of 2015 but heck I thought as I temporarily transformed myself into a mid-west school girl, it’s only a jab thrown by Miliband in PMQs; Labour will want to move the message back onto jobs and the media won’t want to lose focus, we’ll be back on message soon.

I mean, we’re a nation that is producing a generation that for the first time ever is poorer than its parents. We’re not going to take our collective eye off of the economic data in preference of two paragraphs of idiocy from a man nobody had heard of.

Oh wait, yes we are. The media latched onto the sensation and ignored the substantive and Labour fed the fire, posting this poster on their twitter feed.

Just step back for a minute. This is a major political party deciding not to debate jobs, the broader recovery and next steps and instead dragging the discussion onto three paragraphs of, and this is the technical term, guff. To quote: ITS THE ECONOMY STUPID. It’s whether the current pace of job growth is adequate or whether things can be done to improve it (they can, aims at deficit reduction are political not good economics), whether the employment figures are overly bolstered by people removing themselves from the workforce (they probably are) and whether inflation outpacing wage growth is an issue that should be addressed during this economic climate (I genuinely do not know, particularly due to the paltry level of inflation). Now I know, these issues aren’t easy; they require experts and long hard looks at data, they might even require Excel.

But they’re the issues that matter. They’re the fight were in, they’re jobs, real pounds in your pocket and getting people back into long term, constructive work. But we didn’t talk about those today. Maybe tomorrow.