(Printed in Salisbury Journal of 8th Jan 2015 (here is a link to the Journal’s online version)
It is was no surprise that in the same week that Tim Adams wrote to the Salisbury Journal commenting on the amount of space given to our MP John Glen to promote his party political agenda (PostBag, 1st Jan) we should find that John was once again doing just that in his “View from the Commons – High hopes for green shoots of recovery”. He justified this headline with a couple of dubious Tory Central Office sound bites.
John’s first claim that the current government will leave behind the fastest growing economy in the G7, is simply not true. This claim is based on the fact that in just one, three month period last year (when the US economy was set back by appalling weather) the US economy grew less than ours, but for the rest of the last four years, including 2013/14, US growth was well ahead of the UK and predicted to be ahead into 2015 and beyond. What John fails to mention is that the US, along with Germany, Canada and even France all regained 2007 levels of GDP per capita three years ago and are now well ahead of us. When you are so far behind, any growth looks good. If you wait long enough after a recession any country will recover. We have had to wait three years longer than necessary because George Osborne stifled the recovery that had just begun when the Tories took over in 2010.
John also reeled off the claim that that there are 1.7 million more people in employment but fails to mention that this is less than the growth in the population over the same period. The employment rate for full time work is only just returning to 2007 levels with all the extra jobs on top of that being part time and self-employed. These will include forced and insecure self-employment, part time work, work fare and zero hours contracts. It’s worth noting that the number of self-employed people earning less than £10,000 has risen from 20% in 2008 to 35% in 2014. Due to the low pay of all these old and new jobs, Government income from tax receipts is so far below target that our deficit is now rising and is the largest in the G7. John calls this living within our means.
The current period of growth coming ‘conveniently’ just before a general election is mainly due to a government sponsored house price boom underwritten by government borrowing plus consumer spending based on escalating private debt – just the kind of growth the Tories claimed to want to avoid. In the meantime the economy is still unbalanced and the financial sector has not been reformed.
It’s great that unemployment and particularly youth unemployment have dropped but why did we have to wait so long. If only the government had built on the recovery of 2009/10 with a programme of investment in our country’s future – affordable homes for rent and buy, infrastructure, NHS, Education, a serious programme to insulate Britain’s homes starting with the homes of those in fuel poverty. This would have pumped money into real, quality jobs for ordinary people. It would have stimulated the economy, particularly benefitting small and medium sized businesses and the money would finally end up back with the government in the form of tax receipts which, along with the resulting reduced benefits bill, would result in the deficit being reduced year on year. Win win all round.
What a waste of four years! Let’s not repeat it.