I missed last night’s BBC Question Time, as I was travelling with work, so I’ve been catching up tonight. About halfway through the programme, a very articulate young man challenged Tory minister Damian Green about the Conservatives’ unwillingness ever to concede they’re wrong about anything, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.
Green responded that the economy is ‘healing’, because
“the two big measures by which governments get judged are inflation and unemployment. Inflation is half the level it was a year ago, and unemployment has been falling for 7 months in a row.”
None of the other panellists challenged the assertion. However, because I do a monthly analysis of the ONS employment statistics on this blog, and have a decent memory, alarm bells started ringing. So I checked the latest ONS labour statistics (which you can find here in case you want to check them for yourself – you’ll want item A02 and will need to unhide the rows in the first set of stats to see the year’s full data).
As you’ll know if you’ve read any of my analyses of the stats, I use the unadjusted statistics as these represent the raw data of what’s really happening to people. The October statistics only measure the employment situation up to August, so let’s go back 7 months from August, to Feb 2012, and see what the unemployment figures were. The figures are measured on a ‘rolling quarterly’ basis, so we’ll start with the period Dec-Feb, as it ends 7 months before the latest month covered by the stats:
In the ‘Direction’ column, I’ve highlighted the months where employment went up during the last 7 months in red, just to make them easy to spot. As you can see, using Dec-Feb 2012 as a baseline, unemployment fell 3 times. It also rose 3 times – and finished the period higher than it started. No period of 7 consecutive months’ fall that Mr Green asserted.
However, the government’s preferred measure is the adjusted statistics – figures that have been ‘tweaked’ according to some supposed seasonal variation. Maybe Mr Green was just referring to the adjusted figures. Let’s take a look at those:
Oops. Admittedly, the adjusted figures look better for Mr Green. But we can clearly see that not only have there not been 7 months of consecutive falls in unemployment – there hasn’t even been a fall in the last two consecutive months. Yet Green claimed, emphatically and without a flicker of embarrassment, that there have been falls in each of the last 7 months. And since unemployment went up just last month, it doesn’t matter whether he was calculating his 7-month period a little differently to me – even just that one fall, last month, makes his statement absolutely untrue.
The more I watch, check, research and investigate, the more I’m finding something out: this government, and in particular its Tory component, is perfectly happy not just to misinterpret facts but to tell outright lies in order to support its positions – presumably on the assumption that most people won’t know any better and won’t bother to check.
Green told several other massive porkies in the programme, but I’ll touch on those in part 2 of this post. Just remember:
If the Tories’ lips are moving, they’re almost certainly lying.