More govt bollocks, weaseling & outright lies: youth unemployment

I dipped into Treasury Questions on BBC Parliament today, expecting to be outraged by the usual nonsense from George Osborne. It turns out he was absent from the proceedings today (he really is a part-time Chancellor), but there was no shortage of things to get incensed about as Economy Secretary Sajid Javid and Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander were standing in for their absentee boss (that the Tories supposedly oppose ‘something for nothing’ really is too ironic).

Javid in particular was simply ludicrous – and next to Alexander he faced some stiff competition. Apart from the usual infuriating ‘tee-up’ questions (for which I’d happily institute the death penalty) from the Tory backbenchers, along the lines of ‘Would the minister agree that we are simply wonderful and the sun shines out of our collective backsides?‘, I don’t think Javid answered – or even alluded to – a single question he was asked.

Instead, every question from the opposition was answered by referring to some supposed failing of the previous Labour government – a kind of ‘inherited mess myth‘-cubed, but with a playground flavour:

Will the Government now apologise for their complacent decision to scrap the future jobs fund?

Javid: “I think it is the hon. Gentleman who should be apologising.”
In other words,
“Will you apologise for the bad thing you’ve done?”
“You smell!”

But some of the claims he made in his accusatory non-answers were quite mind-blowingly misleading. If I tried to analyse everything they said that was outrageous, untrue or misleading, and often all three, this post would become unreadably long, so I’m going to focus on one key area: youth-unemployment.

Here are some of the questions and the corresponding, non-responsive claims (from the Hansard record), along with an analysis of what the facts actually say:

The clever ‘pick’

Catherine McKinnell: One way to tackle youth unemployment in Kettering and Northamptonshire and across the UK would be for the Government to commit now to repeating Labour’s tax on bank bonuses on top of the bank levy to fund much-needed new jobs for young people. Is the Minister aware that in some parts of Northamptonshire, such as Corby, the number of under-24s on the dole for more than 12 months has gone up by a shocking 233% in just the last year?

Sajid Javid:
I am not surprised that the hon. Lady is talking about youth unemployment, because in the last 10 years of her Government it rocketed by 72% from 534,000 to 921,000. The previous Government created the problem and this Government’s policies are bringing the number down.

Doesn’t actually answer the question, but still seems obvious, right? In Labour’s final 10-year period, their management of the economy was so bad that youth unemployment simply rose and rose, until by the 2010 General Election it had increased by 72%. Shocking. Right?

Wrong.

Here’s a graph I made of the youth unemployment figures (raw figures, not the ones the statisticians ‘adjust’, though the story in this case is much the same either way), for the last part of Major’s Tory government and then the whole of Labour’s last period in power:

Image

The yellow line shows the total (unadjusted) youth unemployment from the beginning of 1996 up to May 2010, while the other lines represent the 16-17 and 18-24 age groups. What the graph shows is that youth unemployment came down under Labour compared to Major’s government, and then stayed more or less static for a number of years until 2005, when it increased slightly.

It then rocketed with the onset of the financial crisis – but had started to come down again by the time of the election.

Javid’s trick – clever in a slick and treacherous kind of way – is to refer to the figures in the context of Labour’s ‘last 10 years’ when in fact the real upturn in the youth unemployment figure was because of the financial crisis that slammed economies worldwide. George Osborne has repeatedly blamed the Eurozone crisis for his government’s failure to create economic growth – and yet the Tories are happy to accuse Labour of economic mismanagement, whether in the form of youth unemployment, or the ‘inherited mess’, or the ‘record deficit’ (which is nothing like a record), or any other measure that they want to use to criticise, ridicule and undermine Labour’s economic credibility.

What’s also very clever and deliberately misleading about Javid’s ‘72% in the last 10 years’ accusation is that it sets as a starting point the youth unemployment level in May 2000, when Labour had already brought it down by over 29% compared to the level Labour inherited from the Tories. By choosing this low starting point, it allows Javid to arrive at his figure of 72%.

But if you started at the level left by Major’s Tory government, the increase at the end of Labour’s tenure – even after years of the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression – was less than 20%. Less than 20%, not 72% – and falling again.

It’s a blatant, shameless distortion of the facts – not to mention that it ignores that David Cameron supported Labour’s measures in response to the crash. All too typical of this hypocritical government.

Ignore one question and frame another

Tom Greatrex: “What recent assessment he has made of the effect of the Government’s fiscal policies on the level of long-term youth unemployment.”

Javid: “The UK labour market is showing some signs of recovery. There are more people in work now than ever before, and youth unemployment is at its lowest since 2011.”

Well, if you look at the seasonally-adjusted figures, unemployment among 16-17s is down by 9,000 compared to the preceding quarter, and among 18-24s by 52,000.

The only small problem is that those numbers are entirely theoretical and don’t actually exist.

If you look at the raw data, 16-17 unemployment rose by 62,000 in the last quarter, and 18-24 rose by 56,000 – those are the figures affecting real people, not the theoretical numbers after the statisticians have played with them. Not only that, but both figures are higher than they were when the coalition came to power, whether you look at the adjusted or unadjusted figures.

In this measure, as in so many others, it’s more a question of ‘the mess we’ve created‘ than ‘the mess we inherited. But of course, you’ll never hear anything that straightforward and honest from the lips of a government spokesman.

And the blatant lie…

Gavin Shuker: “In my constituency, long-term youth unemployment is not up by 11% or 110%, but by 1,150%. Will the Government now apologise for their complacent decision to scrap the future jobs fund?”

Javid: “I think it is the hon. Gentleman who should be apologising. He is probably having a hard time explaining to his constituents why the number of young people on jobseeker’s allowance in the last five years of the previous Government went up by 45%. I have some good news for him, however. Under this Government, that number is down

Well, this qualifies as a blatant lie. Again, Javid picks a low starting point and then points to the higher level when Labour’s tenure ended – but again ignores the fact of the financial crash, and the fact that the level of youth claimants was at its lowest point in over a year by May 2010. Labour was reducing the figure again after the crash.

But he went further, and lied. The 18-24 claimant count in the unadjusted figures in May 2010 was 416,800, versus 445,000 now. ‘ok’, you might say, ‘but he’s using the adjusted figures’. Fair enough. According to the adjusted figures, 429,100 when Labour left office and 435,500 now. Higher in both cases.

Unfortunately, it takes a lot of time to research the figures and ascertain just where the falsehoods lie, and Labour’s questioners would have to be extremely well-informed to be able to identify them within a few seconds of hearing just what lie, evasion or misdirection comes back in response to a question.

But any time you look in any depth at what the ‘answers’ are, and what lies behind them, one thing becomes very clear:

If a Tory’s lips are moving, he’s almost certainly lying.

2 responses to “More govt bollocks, weaseling & outright lies: youth unemployment

  1. Pingback: Treasury Minister Javid joins NHS spending liar list, hypocrite too | skwalker1964·

  2. Pingback: TORY magazine spanks Cameron for massive debt lie | skwalker1964·

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