Friday, August 09, 2013

Lies, damn lies and statistics

At 35 I am no longer a young man, and therefore am now just an 'angry man', which is devoid of the political or existential connotations wrapped up with an 'angry young man'.

One of the many things that makes me angry these days is the continued ignorance of vast swathes of the UK populace, and the creepy seeding of this by large sections of the media.

If you've seen any sort of debate about benefits or unemployment in the long years since the current coalition came to power, you'll know that there's a fairly rigid dichotomy of scrounger hating left and Tory hating right.

So far, so predictable, but because so very few of us decide to actually try and find out information for ourselves to inform opinion, I'm finding myself exasperated when every time some right-wing troll insinuates that a Labour/left-wing government loves to keep people on the dole, 'trapped in benefits culture', their left-wing counterpart mainly points out how nasty Tory policy is or somesuch, or maybe points out the lies behind received opinion about the number of people on long term unemployment benefit.

After a cursory Google search I found two pretty non-partisan sources of information which you can use to show unemployment rates Before Thatcher in '79, during the long Tory stranglehold through to '97 and the New Labour smarmy takeover:

This Trading Economics website link presents handy drop-down menus that allow you to see the rate of unemployment between 1971 and 2013, and you can choose the time frame you want to see and the presentation of the figures, it's all very snazzy.

This Office of National statistic link will let you download a pdf outlining unemployment stats from 1881 to the mid 1990s. It goes into a lot more meat than the former link and obviously back much further (though doesn't have the benefit of stats once Labour gained power in '97).

This chart shows what happened, with massive unemployment after the Torys gained power, sustained until the late 80s where it declined, only to jump up again with the early 90s recession, before slowly falling until Labour took over, at which point it carried falling to pre-Tory levels and stayed that way until the global economic crisis burst out in 2008.

You can argue about Labour being in bed with the financial industry that put us in this current mess (I doubt you'd find evidence to suggest either party wasn't), you can argue about ploys to massage the figures (perpetrated by both parties and so as likely to cancel each other out as anything - the ONS report looks at this), but the facts show that if any party is content to have a huge proportion of working age people on benefits, it's the Tories.

So why do the left, at the very least Labour members and MPs who you'd think have a vested interest, seem unable to ram this home each and every time anyone attempts to pin some ridiculous notion to them?

I'm no Labour supporter and have always mistrusted them since they swept in with Tony, that mistrust cemented by their bloody warmongering, but the Tory alternative is turning out bleaker than I remember from the first time around and my opposition to their stated policies and ideals based on actions has never wavered.

In summary - Labour are about jobs (the clue's in the name) whilst the Torys are about private profit, and as any business owner knows employees are likely to be the biggest expenditure of any enterprise, so lay offs are on the table and while there is still a welfare state, those made jobless are forced to claim for social security (provided from National Insurance and taxes they have paid).
In the absence of the voter support suicide that is totally dismantling the welfare state, the Tory machine has been demonising benefit claimants, whilst simultaneously cultivating and maintaining the conditions that keep the proportion of claimants higher.

Here are the stats broken down a bit around the times of the changeover elections, just to highlight the stat movements more clearly:

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