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Ed Miliband is a wonk. Why doesn’t he check his facts?

8 July 2014

11:29 AM

8 July 2014

11:29 AM

A few weeks ago, I was reading the newly-published Modernisers’ Manifesto (pdf) published by Bright Blue and a fact jumped out: ‘London is a tearaway success, responsible for 79 per cent of all private sector jobs growth since 2010’. Startling fact, I though – I’d missed that. But about ten minutes of Googling showed that it wasn’t quite true. The fact was from a report by an IPPR offshoot, the Centre for Cities. It used survey data that went up to 2012, before the jobs boom started. You can find the real figures on the ONS website, and here’s what they show.

But here’s the thing. This wrong figure was repeated by several Labour Party figures, hoping to find a flaw in the recovery (don’t they know Coffee House does that better than anyone?) Yet some of Labour’s smartest MPs, and Chuka Umunna, repeated this figure.

Andrew Adonis had this to say:

‘Four fifths of net new jobs since 2010 have been in London.’

And it worked its way into the draft of an Ed Miliband speech. Even when he was called out about it, he made out that it was true. It was:-

‘The best data I’ve seen.’

I’d like to think that a fact so wrong would never have made it into The Spectator – we have a checking system in place. Yet this non-fact obviously passed through the researchers and speechwriters of several Labour MPs who seemed to genuinely think that the economic recovery is a London thing. I can only assume they think this because they spend so little time outside the capital.

It’s more than just an embarrassment. It shows a serious weakness in the Labour Party machine: it has outsourced its thinking to think tanks – and not particularly good ones. It’s basing an attack line around a non-fact. Alarm bells did not ring. No one seemed to say: hang on, doesn’t this clash with the latest employment figures for the North of England? A party of wonks seems not to know even the basics. To which the Conservatives can only say: bring on the election.

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