Coffee House

Tory battle of the letters intensifies

31 January 2013

6:11 PM

31 January 2013

6:11 PM

It’s the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice this week, so perhaps it’s the passionate letter from Darcy to Elizabeth that’s inspired such an enthusiastic burst of letter-writing from Conservative MPs complaining about stories in the press today. Earlier, we had Jake Berry complaining to the BBC, and now there are more. Sadly, the latest missives I’ve got hold of from Harriett Baldwin don’t contain declarations of love, or any insults for the recipient’s mother: instead, Baldwin is angry about an article by Ed Miliband in today’s Sun.

Plugging his party’s policy for every big firm receiving a government contract to train young people, the Labour leader writes:

‘Among the major European countries, we are in the relegation zone when it comes to youth unemployment. Only crisis-hit Spain has higher numbers of young unemployed than the UK.’

Now, as the graphs below show, Miliband is right when he says the UK has higher numbers of young unemployed than any other EU country apart from Spain, but that’s not much use as the UK also has a larger population than most other EU countries. Here are the unemployment levels for European countries:


What matters when making these comparisons is the percentage of youth unemployment, not the numbers. So here are the unemployment rates:

Baldwin found this use of raw numbers insufferable, and has written two letters: one to UK Statistics Authority chief Andrew Dilnot, and one to Miliband himself. She has asked Dilnot to ‘advise on how we can ensure that the debate over youth unemployment is not influenced by the inappropriate manipulation of statistics’.

Her letter to Miliband, which you can read in full here, opens thus:

‘I am sure you will agree that it is vital that public debate is informed by accurate use of statistics, particularly in the case of party leaders.’

She then asks the Labour leader the following questions:

1. On what statistical basis you make the claim that ‘only crisis-hit Spain has higher numbers of young unemployed than the UK’?

2. Why did you choose not to use percentage unemployment rates as a basis for comparison, as is standard practice?

3. Was your choice of comparison deliberately designed to present the UK in the most negative possible light?

4. Why did you draw parallels between the UK and ‘crisis-hit’ Spain on youth unemployment, when Spain’s youth unemployment is 2.8 times higher than our own?

5. On what grounds do you consider it legitimate to compare a country of 63 million people to countries with significantly smaller populations?

I suspect that in this battle of the letters, though, one word from the opposition won’t be enough to silence CCHQ forever…

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Show comments
  • Daniel Maris

    There are two ways a governing party can win election. One is to govern well and establish credibility with the public. The other is to undermine the credibility of the opposition.

    The first has great merit and is the true guarantor of success while the second is of no or little merit.

  • Heracles Black

    I think I

  • HooksLaw

    Miliband is thoroughly disreputable. His pontificating on the BBC news this evening was typical.

  • gladiolys

    Who gives a toss? Dave lies about the debt, Miliband obfuscates about youth unemployment. They’re all liars and none of them have our interests at heart. Pigs and charlatans.

    • George_Arseborne

      Debt going down claim by Dave is the biggest lie ever by any Prime Minister. High Youth unemployment is a divine truth by Ed Milliband.

      • Colonel Mustard

        You didn’t read the article then? Do you dance through the streets jingling bells in your cult worship of this divinity?

  • SmithersJones2013

    Why is anyone surprised or getting upset. There are only three things Labour have ever been any good at : smearing, lying and misrepresenting. Miliband is just being true to his kind….

  • toco10

    The BBC is poisoned with left wing tax avoiding news hacks who use limited liability companies to avoid Tax and National Insurance the rest of us are obliged to pay.Such hypocrits can never be trusted to provide a balanced view.

  • Magnolia

    Mr Miliband knows that folklore says The Sun has a reading age of nine years.
    Well done MP Baldwin for her fighting spirit and for standing up for decent debate.
    Well done too, to Isabel for working my favourite book in to a political comment piece.
    Perhaps we could have a few more interesting classic titles woven in to the fabric of our discourse here?

  • 2trueblue

    She could also have mentioned that during the 13yrs his government were in power youth unemployment grew at its highest rate and his government did not manage to get a handle on it at all. Millipede minor is dishonest about youth unemployment and his brother had the decency to state that the record of youth unemployment under Liebore was terrible.

    The BBC have a duty to report items of news correctly and their so called journalists are incompetent, and lack the skills to impart the facts in an impartial and correct manner. If their journalists can not tell the difference in the 2 sets of figures then they should be sacked. A young student would have no difficulty in seeing how to present the facts.

    As for Milipede minor, he is not fit to lead any party if this is how he presents ‘facts;. But it does further illustrate how dishonest and incompetent he is, and how our economy suffered whilst he was a member of the previous government.

  • Robert_Eve

    Shows the ‘quality’ of Miliband.