David Cameron had a good PMQ yesterday. He was able to point to the unemployment figures and show that the austerity programme had worked. The unemployment rate fell to 7.4%, its lowest rate in the UK since the February-to-April period in 2009.
Although the Welsh Government were quick to claim credit for the fall in unemployment figures in Wales. The figures now put Wales on a par with England, both with unemployment rates of 7.4%.
Whatever the Welsh Government says, it’s Cameron and Osborne that will get the credit.
In a recent YouGov poll more people thought spending cuts were good for the economy rather than bad. The Westminster government think they’ve won the argument and Cameron was certainly crowing about it in the House yesterday.
Although this “good” news hasn’t translating into a poll lead, yet. Why? Many people are no better off.
Miliband is mining a rich vein when he goes on about the cost of living. But it’s not all about costs going up. It’s also about wages and income.
Whilst yesterday’s employment figures show that the economy is back into growth pay packets are not growing. Workers’ average wages are down £364 on a year ago and over £1,500 lower than at the general election.
Yesterday’s news would be good tidings indeed if it was linked to a decent job, unfortunately this is seldom the case.
Everyone who signs up to work experience or a “training” course, no matter how threadbare, is regarded as in employment. But what they receive in their pockets cannot be described as a wage.
The same goes for people pressed to accept part-time work or zero-hours contracts even though they would far prefer full-time employment. Even most “real” new jobs offer little better than the official minimum wage.
The TUC has said we’re living through the longest wage squeeze since the 1870s and according to analysis by the Office for Budget Responsibility, the real wage of the average worker will not be restored to its pre-recession level until 2018.
The political argument should not just about growth and the cost of living, it should be a much wider debate about the state and shape of the Britain’s economy, and whether it delivers for the ordinary worker.
It should be about delivering a living wage. What kind of economy is the country aspiring to, what kind of jobs are being created.
Yesterday’s knockabout in the Commons was entertaining but totally irrelevant. Only a party that addresses the economy in a serious and meaningful way deserves the support of the voter.