Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Challenging the narrative: Employment

This article has been reprinted from Liberal Democrat Voice

 I was engaged in a twitter argument yesterday with someone who was disputing the progress we have seen in employment, putting the improved figures down to a million people enslaved on zero hours contracts.

The Office for National Statistics have provisionally estimated the number of zero hours contracts to be between 583,000 and 1.4 million. There isn't an established data series for this that would enable historical comparisons, but there are such statistics for full time and part time workers. According to these the number of part time workers is up 356,000 since May 2010, and the number of full time workers is up 1,114,000.

Let me re-emphasise that point. Not just a million private sector jobs, not just a million net jobs, but a million net full time jobs have been created since the coalition was formed.

You can see my calculations here, based on data from here (A01)

A footnote on sheet 3 of A01 indicates that "The split between full-time and part-time employment is based on respondents' self-classification." suggesting that nobody has been classified as full time who is not able to work full time.

Now an unemployment rate of 6.8% is still too high (down from 7.9% in 2010), and for 26.9% of jobs to be part time (down from 27% in 2010) when many of those people may wish to work full time, is also still too high. But the signs are that we are moving in the right direction and need to keep going.

Zero-hours has been debated before on this site, and Vince Cable has been, rightly, looking into the issue and is prepared to act on abuses. The opposition has also been making noises on this issue, largely to distract from what is overall a strongly improving picture on unemployment.

Employment up 1.5 million. Unemployment down 282,000 despite a growing workforce. 76% of new jobs are full time jobs meaning that the proportion of all jobs that are full time has increased.

Maybe we could have done even better? Perhaps.

A basic analysis would say that Germany escaped the worst of the credit crunch and recovered quickly with help from a weakened Euro. France, under Hollande, is seeing unemployment still rise. The UK has escaped the debt default fears that have hit Spain (despite a higher post-crunch deficit), and is creating jobs faster than the EU average.

These facts are toxic to Labour's strategy and message. Understand them and use them.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

On Demonisation

This article is reprinted from Liberal Democrat Voice. The comments on that article have not delivered any counterexamples to the hypothesis that the government is not demonising public sector workers.

 A fellow councillor recently retweeted in a spirit of irony, something about 'evil' public sector workers. After a short exchange it became clear that the issue was the 'demonisation' of public sector workers by the government.

 Now it almost has the status of received wisdom that Michael Gove hates teachers, Jeremy Hunt hates nurses, Eric Pickles hates local government workers, all Tories hate welfare recipients, that this hatred leads to demonisation, and the Liberal Democrats, while perhaps not directly involved, are quite comfortable with all this.

I was reluctant to get involved, as I disagree often with Michael Gove, and have no desire to defend him; yet I've never heard him demonise any teachers. Disagree with teaching unions and teaching experts? Yes, frequently, though the unions and the experts are not the teachers. But demonise is a strong word, it suggests you are saying that someone is at least deliberately doing a bad job, or making a problem worse in some way. I wouldn't be too surprised to hear a Tory talk in these terms, but for it to be such a common complaint, there must be some good examples of it around.

So I could have left it alone, but I thought it was important to understand a) what ministers are up to, and b) whether this is an area for differentiation, or whether this is in fact an example of lazy and dishonest hatemongering, that deserves to be challenged whoever its target might be.

So I asked for an example of a member of the government demonising, or making out to be evil, a group of public sector workers. There followed a long twitter exchange including plenty of examples of public sector workers complaining that they were being demonised, but none of this demonisation in the act.

So I looked for my own examples. What does Gove think of teachers? There's this, which seems quite positive to me, though he clearly has some disagreements with the mainstream of the profession.

I've even heard it suggested that the Mid Staffs enquiry was done purely to demonise nurses, which shows disgraceful complacency over the standards of care. And is Jeremy Hunt lying when he says "I know that the last year has been difficult and how busy and stressful it can be on the frontline. Thank you to everyone for your amazing efforts to make our hospitals safer and more compassionate."

I guess a cursory google search won't find the unguarded remark or secret briefing, so, dear reader, can you help out my Labour colleague. Share with me, in the comments, ministers demonising public sector workers. Or claims of demonisation that seem to be unsupported by any evidence. Together we can get to the bottom of this, one way or the other.

I am aware that many people feel they are being demonised, but that might just be because they believe the Labour Party and the unions who are constantly telling them that it is the case. Who needs morale in the public sector, when you can generate some politically useful anger?

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

That Ed Miliband speech in full (4)

Reposted from Liberal Democrat Voice

The following arrived in a brown envelope at Lib Dem Voice Towers, this morning. It is probably an early draft.
[Check against delivery]
[Note to self. I will be speaking without use of the autoclue. Will need to deliver the speech entirely without a clue.]
I want to start by thanking somebody from the bottom of my heart.
Ella Philips, who fell off her bike and called me an action hero who mysteriously appeared out of nowhere. She called me suave and not geeky at all.
I was pretty pleased with this until I realised she was concussed. So I got her to vote in her local constituency candidate selection.
I have emotion that is felt at kitchen tables across the country every night. Six simple words that say “can you pass the ketchup please”.
We have to rebuild anew one nation, and today I’m going to tell you how.
I will start with leadership. Leaderhsip is about risks and decisions. I ran for the leadership of this party to spite my brother.
The other week I faced a bigger decision: whether this country should go to war. All of us were horrified with the chemical attacks. But I saw the opportunity to score political points, and said no.
Let me tell you about normal person. She said to me “How can you understand the lives of normal people who live round here”. My answer – I was brought up in great privilege, infused with socialist theory from books.
The most important qualification for being prime minister is knowing good apple pie. this is what I believe and this is where I stand.
Every week I think about the people of Britain. What are they like?
Hooray for the troops!
Hooray for the police!
Hooray for all the poeple I have met!
Normal person wandered up, he was very angry about immigration. I was a bit scared.
Hooray for the NHS!
For generations in Britain, when the economy grew, people got better off. But somewhere along the way [under Tony Blair] this link was broken. They used to say a rising tide lifts all boats. Now a rising tide just lifts the yachts. Now I say this: don’t take a second look at a political party like ours that made this happen.
Now I have a question for you. Do the Tories get it?
murmur of confusion
Wrong answer! Do the Tories get it?
David Cameron will be claiming to have saved the economy after the mess we left it in. Come on! We left it in a bigger mess than that!
[This is the bit where I channel Ronald Reagan]
Am I better off now than I was 3 years ago? The cost of living crisis is not an accident of economic policy, it is a consequence of our decision to spread the pain of 2008 over the following 10 years. [Sure we should say this?]
Britain can’t win the global race, it can do better than that, it can lose. Britain cannot and should not try to have a competitive economy, it must stagnate.
The Tories call our people inhabitants of desolate areas. We call them people whose votes we can take for granted.
To make Britain better you have to win a race to the top, and it will be tough. So forget everything I have just said, that was just positioning.
Many of the jobs in the future will come from small businesses. So I’m going to put up taxes on big business to cut business rates for small businesses. One nation Labour, extending the class war to cover small versus big business.
And because this government has overseen a massive voluntary expansion in apprenticeships, let’s introduce some compulsion to some businesses, just to give the whole program a bit of a sour taste.
Young people should have access to education and training. Why did nobody think of this before?
Going to primary school is a bit like being leader of the Labour Party. Can I have the paints please miss.
And we’ve also got to deal with low pay. We will strengthen the minimum wage so that people can pay our extra 10% income tax on low earners.
I’m the child of immigrants, but hiring foreigners to do work? It’s a race to the bottom! Not under my government! (Except for me being PM)
In the 1990s we committed to a dynamic market economy. But what happens when competition fails? Train companies, pay day lenders, energy bills – we did nothing about any of these in government but they make for good rhetoric in opposition.
If we win in 2015 the government will freeze gas and electricity prices until the start of 2017. So clearly – if we have any chance of winning – bills will rise sharply in early 2015, and we can blame that on the coalition.
Hooray for the NHS again!
We don’t just need to improve the health service we’ve got to rescue it from the Tories (and Liberals too) who are actually doing the work on integrating health and social care that we only talk about.
Let me tell you about the record of the last Labour government. When we came to office there was a moderately burdensome tick box target culture, but when we left it was immense. [Do we talk about Mid Staffs? No, you fool]
So we will scaremonger over the NHS all over again and for all time.
Now for the best bit. Party reform. Yay.
Change is difficult. But the reason it is impossible in our party is because of our unique link with the unions. My reforms are about hearing the voices of the few million union members much louder than the tens of millions of others.
I want to talk about gay and lesbian young people who are now allowed to marry thanks to the coalition.
But we have to win the battle for the United Kingdom, or I won’t have a chance of winning a general election.
So I have talked to you today about unfunded spending commitments. But the next election won’t just be about unfunded spending commitments and hidden extra cuts and tax rises to pay for them. If you want to know the difference between me and David Cameron, it is simple. He is a more effective class warrior than I am.
We know what we’ll see from our party at the election: divide and rule; north v south, rich v poor. It’s the worst form of politics. Britain is better than us.
The easy path for politics is to divide. I believe in one nation, us versus them. I want to win it for Britain. Britain is better than us.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

That Ed Milliband Speech in full (3)

[check against delivery]

Hello and welcome to Manchester.

I'm not very sure what to talk about today. I've been leader for two years, and I'm feeling so old my memory is going.

My son tells me I should be talking about dinosaurs, and that seems as good an idea as any.

Anyway instead of making a speech today I'm going to do what my image advisors keep telling me to do and tell you my story.

I was born in a hospital and went to a school. Just like you normal people.

I wouldn't be standing here today without an education from one of the most exclusive comprehensive schools in the country.

My parents instilled in me a sense of duty to get on with my brother. [shrugs]

I believe we shall overcome, nuns in a convent, over the alps to Switzerland. This is my faith.

Of course my parents didn't tell me what career to go into. And they are both so scarily left-wing, they must be ashamed of me. Or maybe I show them a different face to what I show you.

That is my faith. Those are my two faithes.

When I think of normal person I met I think how full of positive empathic energy she was. And then she told me her story. It was a better story than this one.

When I think of small business person I met I feel so touchy-feely, I'm in danger of touching myself here on stage.

Why is it that the gas and electricity bill just goes up and up? [Should I mention my time as Energy Secretary?  Ed. No, you fool]

Hooray for the olympics and paralympics. We succeeded because of the 70,000 games makers all of whom are here with us today. [We'll need a bigger hall. Ed]

Hooray for the troops. Hooray for the police. Hooray for Seb Coe and Tessa Jowell.

And Hooray for us. [What about all the elite athletes - do we mention them? Ed]

That sense of a country united. I can't remember a time like it since the country rejected Michael Foot.

Bejamin Disraeli - Clement Atlee - One Nation [Tory? Ed] - that is my vision, that is the Britain we must become.

But Labour's failures on youth unemployment, the increasing gap between rich and poor, and a welfare system that fails to make work pay, has stood in the way of these things. [Er, I'm a bit worried people will notice I am praising coalition policy. Ed]

So who can do this? What about the Tories. [murmur of agreement from the crowd] Wrong answer. What about the Tories [boos from the crowd]

Borrowing borrowing borrowing borrowing. We are against the government doing this. We want them to do more of it and/or less of it. But the opposite is true.

The problem is the British people are paying the price of the last governments failure. [This government surely? Ed. Sorry.]

What do they choose as their priority at this time? A tax cut for milliionaires like me, balanced by caps on reliefs that will raise five times as much from millionaires like me. [better not mention the last bit]

How can we justify the unfairness in 2012 of ignoring the whole balance of the tax package when criticising it? We have to do it or we will have nothing to say in this speech. I mean story.

Remember the people's budget of 1909 that was blocked by the House of Lords? We have sunk Lords reform so that it would be blocked again.

My advisors tell me to attack on the issue of competence because we are rightly seen as weak there.

Ooohh silly Tory toffs look tee hee. You wont find that kind of privilege among Islington and Hampstead millionaires like myself.

So we disagree and agree with the government on welfare reform.

And we agree with many of the government cuts, and we agree that those with the broadest shoulders will bear the greatest burden. I will never support a top rate as low as 45p, that's just wrong. That's why our party had it at 40p. One nation can be two-faced nation.

There is no future for this party as a party of one sectional interest, led by a man bought and paid for by the unions.

In One Nation, no interest from Murdoch to the banks will be too powerful to be held to account. [So why didn't we set up Leveson and Vickers? Ed]

Think about small business person who was ripped of by his bank thanks to our failure to regulate. We will do something about this if it hasn't been done already.

To be a One Nation economy, you see, you have to support coalition policies in all these areas. Let's pretend there aren't a million extra apprenticeships under the coalition and talk as if we've just thought of the idea.

So we'll now focus on the forgotten 50% who don't go to university - by making them pay higher taxes to support the tuition of those who do go.

We will make apprenticeships a condition of public contracts. And I'll talk for a bit about coalition policy on apprenticeships as if it were ours. But focusing on the public sector.

Michael Gove. Tee hee. He wanted to bring back a two tier system, but the Liberal Democrats wouldn't have it.

We can bring about this one nation economy by removing clarity from accounting standards, and by putting up barriers to trade. Because that's never gone wrong, no sir.

I want us to engage with Europe and the rest of the world. Too often in the past we have been tolerant of immigration where it might benefit our economy and society. So this is something I will do differently. The last Labour government did too little to win the "bigot" vote.

Scotland could leave the United Kingdom, but we would be much worse off as a result. Not just in pounds and pence but also in the electoral prospects of the Labour Party.

Hooray for the NHS. I'm so pleased it still exists despite everything we said about the reforms.

What a scoundrel Cameron is. The Labour Party would never do a top-down reorganisation of the NHS.

So I'm going to pretend for a bit that the NHS has been abolished, because that will get you fired up.

The worst thing for me about these reforms is how they were designed around Blairite values. It proves the old adage: You just can't trust New Labour on the NHS.

So let me be unclear. The next Labour government will repeal something.

So that's my speech, I mean story.

I was talking to my mum. Not about dinosaurs this time.

Who in this generation will fight them on the beaches, and on the landing grounds? It's not some impossible dream. One nation under labour can fight these [other] dinosaurs. Thankyou very much.