Why David Cameron should be bothered about unemployment

24 June 2011

2:22 PM

24 June 2011

2:22 PM

With the publication of the latest unemployment figures, the government allowed itself a little moment of smugness as the figures appeared to be going in the right
direction. Coalition ministers claimed credit for this just days after they introduced the new Work Programme: a cheeky if understandable piece of political chicanery.

But David Cameron cannot afford to be smug on this issue. I know there is serious concern about youth unemployment in government and a growing understanding that the new system will not address the
needs of the under-25s. Losing a significant proportion of this generation to joblessness is not something this society can afford. Politically it may seem impossible for this government to
alienate young people any more than it has already, but if youth unemployment creeps closer to 25 per cent, it’s difficult to see how the coalition will win them back. This is a particular
problem for Lib Dems in the university constituencies where they were once so strong.


I have always assumed that the reason Tories don’t really get it on unemployment is that very few Tory MPs have experience of it within their circle of family and friends. I also thought it
was probably not a priority issue for Tory MPs in their constituencies. A cursory look at the latest statistics bears this out. The English constituencies most affected by unemployment are all
Labour. These include Liam Byrne’s Birmingham Hodge Hill, Louise Ellman’s Liverpool Riverside, David Lammy’s Tottenham and Alan Johnson’s Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle.

Perhaps not surprisingly, all but a handful of the constituencies with the lowest rates of unemployment are Conservative. But a closer look, shows something very interesting indeed. Two of the
highest percentage increases since 2006 are in Liam Fox’s North Somerset (up 124 per cent) and David Cameron’s Witney (up 121 per cent). In England only Sam Gyimah’s East Surrey
(up 156 per cent), Paul Beresford’s Mole Valley (up 131 per cent) and Michael Gove’s Surrey Heath (up 129 per cent) are higher. The numbers are relatively small, but for each person
involved this is no less painful. Cameron can argue that the figures represent the Labour years and it’s true that there are nine fewer people on the dole in Witney since his government came
to power. But he can’t afford to be complacent.

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Show comments
  • rndtechnologies786

    Good think..

  • rndtechnologies786

    Think is nice.

  • Tom Freeman

    There may not be too much significance in the fact that some leafy Tory areas have had the biggest % rises in unemployment.

    Say that the recession destroyed 1 job in 20, and that it did this in every area. In areas where employment was very high and unemployment very low, this equates to more job losses and a higher relative rise in unemployment than areas where the opposite was true.

    So in Richville, there were 20,000 people in work and 500 on the dole. Now 1,000 have gone from work to dole, an increase in the latter of 200%. And in Poortown, there were 17,000 in work and 3,500 on the dole. Now 850 have gone from work to dole, an increase in the latter of just 24%.

  • HJ

    Martin Bright:

    “I have always assumed that the reason Tories don’t really get it on unemployment…”

    Why does Martin Bright single out the Tories? Every single Labour government has left power with unemployment higher than when they came to power. That rather indicates that they are clueless on unemployment.

  • TrevorsDen

    I am not surprised you find yourself criticised, even by my ‘usual suspects’. You walk into a minefield without an exit.

    I think that if you are worried about youth unemployment (as you should be) then you might consider 13 years where labour have degraded our education system.
    You might also consider the mass immigration of cheap labour under labour (and if it was not cheap it was well educated and well motivated).

    Labours betrayal of its own people is/was disgraceful. Brown should never be allowed to live down parking countless thousands on benefits, they simply gave up on them.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    I didn’t say you were evil. But what you wrote? Uncalled for and divisive, and without logical or factual foundation, that’s evil enough.

  • Peter From Maidstone

    I agree that Labour MPs will probably have more regular contact with unemployed people, but it could also be said that Conservative MPs have greater experience of people working and running successful businesses.

    Which is more important and necessary for a Government?

    I’d go with the latter.

  • Charles


    Unbelieveable presumptous and incredibly offensive to suggest/imply that Tories aren’t bothered about unemployment.

    The precise purpose of the welfare reforms is to tackle the evils of unemployment: the experience of the last 15+ years have taught us that providing a minimum amount of cash in benefits is not sufficient to offset the damage caused to the individual by a lack of a job. Making work pay, at all levels and however little time someone spends working, is critical to starting to turn around the social decay that bedevils this country

  • Martin Bright

    First time I have been called “evil” on this blog. Even my Islamist critics don’t call me that. Slightly over the top, even for you Rhoda.

  • Martin Bright

    Always happy to have my assumptions shaken. But to answer the first comment, I don’t have the exact number and can only answer for myself. I was unemployed in the late 1980s, shortly after I left university. I eventually left the country to find permanent work. There is no reason that Tory MPs can’t imagine what it’s like to be unemployed. But generally speaking the experience of being a Labour constituency MP will bring them into direct contact with unemployed people and the effects of unemployment on a daily basis.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Why wouldn’t you think that the MPs who have little unemployment are the ones who don’t get it? Maybe they encourage business to set up in their areas? Maybe they don’t go begging for public sectors employers to move in and destroy enterprise. Wherever there is Labour there is unemployment, and a predominance of the public sector. Why don’t you try to decide what is cause and what is effect?

    I cannot imagine why tories ‘don’t get it’? What evidence is there? Or is it in fact the because they are tories they can’t possibly care as much as Martin Bright? The premise here is BS, and it is evil BS because it avoids looking for real problems in favour of tribal bollocks.

  • Peter From Maidstone

    These are two reasons for youth unemployment. Immigration and Benefits. Deal with both of these and youth unemployment will drop.

    We already know that of the millions of jobs which have been created in recent years almost all have gone to immigrants rather than to British youth. While that is allowed to continue youth unemployment will be too high.

  • DavidDP

    “I have always assumed that the reason Tories don’t really get it on unemployment is that very few Tory MPs have experience of it within their circle of family and friends”

    And this is different from Labour MPs, who all appeared to go straight into union or politcal posts straight from uni, how?

  • Axstane

    Presumptuous to opine that Cameron may not be disturbed by unemployment. Purely as a matter of interest Mr Bright would you care to say how many of your close relatives are job-seekers and have you ever signed on at a Job Centre or Labour Exchange?

    Then to statistics – cynically quoted. If Much Binding had one person unemployed in 2010 and 2 in 2011 that is a 100% increase.

    Thirdly, we all know that solidly Labour constituencies always elect Labour MPs and Labour Councils. That is because they never learn that Labour is not the party of the poor man at all.

    Lastly, youth unemplyment has risen for over 30 years and to a large degree this has two causes – poor education, unbridled immigration. I will accept that past Tory governments weren’t particular innocent on either of those but Labour sure as hell was very guilty. It would take 10 years to deal with those problems to any reasonable extent.