In a recent interview Danny Alexander, Liberal Democrat number two in the Treasury, claimed:
"The plan that we're putting in place to sort out the economy bears as much my stamp as it does George Osborne's."
Official coalition perception management has it that the economy is bouncing back, employment is at its highest level ever and unemployment is falling. I think even Daily Mail readers must take this Panglossian interpretation with a pinch of salt.
According to figures produced by UNISON (Kirklees Bulletin 1 - 4th April, 2014)
- 80% of new jobs created in Britain last year were on zero-hours contracts
- of the alleged 1 million new private sector jobs, 400 000 are self-employed
- of the 1 million private sector jobs created since 2010, 200 000 result from the re-classification of jobs in FE/6th Form Colleges
- 2.5 million people remain unemployed
- of the 2.5 million, one million are under 25 (one in five of the age group)
Even if UNISON has exaggerated the figures, and I have no reason to believe they have, very many families, including those in the comfortable middle, must be affected by the above, particularly the horrifying numbers of young people unable to find work.
Rather than claim shared ownership of Osborne's economic policies, Liberal Democrats should point out that the Tories have 305 MPs and we have only 57 so, although we can't do much to stop them, our own priorities, as heirs of Keynes and Beveridge, would have been and are very different.
We should also point out that such signs of recovery as there are are probably due to the increase in infrastructure investment urged by Vince Cable rather than Osborne's Plan A, which was effectively abandoned in 2012.
* I was once advised, and have advised many students, that economists should as far as possible refer to "unemployed people" rather than the abstract "unemployment," just as a reminder that what we're talking about is real people's lives, hopes, relationships, health and sense of purpose, and not just a statistic.