Coffee House

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

8 July 2014

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.

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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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Show comments
  • lakelander

    “Yet some of Labour’s smartest MPs, and Chuka Umunna,…”

    Are you hinting at something, Fraser?

  • ohforheavensake

    Will you be devoting a similar column to IDS?

    & while we’re on the subject, every time you post something on economics, folks like Jonathan Portes have to come along and point out your numerous errors.

  • Amir

    Read this article about Ed Miliband and his last chance:

  • David B

    It fitted with Labours pet theory of the recovery is not for everyone.

    Just like WMD why check a “fact” that supports your theory, it might turn out the be wrong and then where would the theory be!

  • Peter Stroud

    Oh dear Lord, and to think they might just win!

  • JP Janson De Couet

    Meanwhile, over at the Department of Work and Pensions where people are dying under its watch …

  • Tom M

    My my Fraser you’ve discovered that the Labour party can’t distinguish fact from spin.
    Let’s hope they never get into power they could even start a war on that basis.

  • Mynydd

    It is not clear from the figures given as to how jobs are allocated to areas. For example. If a person from say Reading takes up a newly created job in London. One set of statistics allocates the job to London, where as another set allocates the job to Reading, the place where the person resides. So which one we are looking at.
    Further more only one side of the jobs market is being looked at. Job lost in an area must also be looked at. That is net jobs. Take the number of new jobs minus the jobs lost for a given area.
    Of course there is also the double counted figures, almost 200,000 FE and college jobs were moved from the public sector to the private sector, which allowed Mr Cameron to claim we have cut almost 200,000 public sector jobs and created almost 200,000 private jobs

  • John Moss

    A lie is halfway round the blogosphere before the truth can get googling.

  • Makroon

    Quite so, Fraser, wonks don’t do facts, they make entertaining Power Point presentos.
    And you are overlooking the fact that the soundbite rang out loud and true to it’s intended audience, who don’t pay attention to ‘follow-ups’.

  • HookesLaw

    Inconvenient facts are always ignored by nutjobs, whether they be from left or right.

  • AdemAljo

    2015 Election aside, if this battering of Labour’s integrity on the political playground continues then Miliwonk will become a non-issue.

    I love slamming Labour’s inadequacies as much as the next bloke, but there are simply hundreds of wonks queuing up to replace Ed ‘The Strategist’ Milibland. Some of them much more capable politicians than young Miliflop.

    Revel in Labour’s arse-about-face, Monty Python-esque political shammery as much as we like, but always beware the coming storm.

  • Rhoda Klapp8

    ” some of Labour’s smartest MPs, and Chuka Umunna,”

    I see what you did there.

    • Alex

      Yes, made me chuckle.

    • Hexhamgeezer

      Suggesting Labour has more than one? :-)

  • Reconstruct

    This was a really alarming mistake, because it reveals that Mr Miliband (and/or his advisors) really have no knowledge at all of Britain’s economy. And worse, they have no curiosity.

    The only conclusion one can draw is that they are stuck not just within the M25 mindset, but worse, within a fantasy constructed out of the M25 mindset.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Their mindset is a bit further east than the M25.

    • HJ777

      It’s the stupidity that’s alarming.

      A few moments’ thought should have told Miliband that this statistic was unlikely to be correct over any extended period (as opposed to for the occasional month).

      • Holly

        Take heart!
        Back in the real world more people have jobs in the private sector than under Labour.
        More low paid people keep more of their wage than under Labour.

        Most important of all, more people are speaking out about what really irks them than they could under Labour, and just because the ‘fair & balanced’ cr@p is peddled out on the ‘news’ who interview equal numbers against one political party or the other, does not stop people from talking freely about what really irks them, with each other.

        • HJ777

          I find many of the senior people in Labour quite alarmingly unable to deal with data.

          I remember when Gordon Brown was Chancellor, whenever a Labour MP or minister was asked about the economy or some economic figures, the response seemed to be along the lines of “I don’t worry my head about that because I don’t need to, as surely everyone knows that Gordon Brown is brilliant and is taking care of everything much better than the Tories could”. It was worrying, to say the least.

          I also remember a news programme asking several senior Labour MPs and cabinet minsters what the size of the debt and the deficit were, just prior to the election. The answers were completely random (and many confused the two). They weren’t lying, they just genuinely had no clue.

          • miford

            Agree. That’s why I like Mr Farage. He actually knows how the world economy works. None of these other ‘leaders’ know diddlysquat about ours or anyone else’s economy, and care less. It’s scary.

      • Reconstruct

        You’re right. The only way one wouldn’t have instinctively known that this was an obviously wrong statistic would be if a) you were really very stupid or b) instinctively took it for granted that everywhere outside London was an economic wasteland.

        Bear in mind that Mr Miliband is the MP for . . . Doncaster!

        Has he ever even been there, I wonder?

        • HJ777

          I had entirely forgotten (or perhaps never knew) that he is an MP for Doncaster.

          I don’t suppose that he spends much time there.

    • Andy

      This we know, or they wouldn’t have f*cked the economy up so much whilst in power.

  • Inverted Meniscus

    Poor old Fraser. You seem to have forgotten that Labour define the truth as: ‘whatever is coming out of our mouths at a given point in time regardless of any inconvenient and contradictory facts’. Labour, the party of lies, lying and liars.

    Incidentally, was calling him a “wonk” a sly way of call Militwat something else?

  • Jock

    Ed M – a drowning mand clinging to an anchor.

    • Andy

      He should be lashed to it.

  • goatmince

    We stopped reporting Money M4 growth – only to inflate it like there was no tomorrow.
    Then we stopped counting the unemployed properly – only to disguise the facts of socio-economic climate change.
    Then we stopped recording RPI – only to inflate the living daylight out of homes.

    What next. Will we stop counting people next?

  • Barakzai

    Ed Miliband’s a wonk.

    A wonk?

    Close, Fraser, close!

  • Smithersjones2013

    Labour misrepresenting issues? Who’d have thunk it? Surely it is the first rule of politics that Labour lie?

    Talking of which this morning why was Miliband pontificating about the government being slow to the latest abuse scandal whilst failing to acknowledge that the Labour Government of 13 years which he was a part of did absolutely nothing ?

    Given they did nothing about the hacking scandal or the MId Staffs NHS scandal and we all remember what happened over the expenses scandal and now this we are seriously getting into dereliction of duty and gross incompetence country. The fact is for all of its many faults at least this coalition government is acting on such matters and taking responsibility when they are confronted with them whereas the last Labour legislation seemed only to want to stick its head in the sand like some deranged ostrich..

    Before Labour put themselves forward as serious candidates to be our next government perhaps Miliband abd the rest who were part of their last government might explain such systemic negilgence on their part and whether they intend to sweep such scandals unnder the carpet in any furuture governments?

    First and foremost every single former Labour Home Secretary (and there were quite a few) should be grilled by the inquiries to find out what happened in their 13 years?

    • Colonel Mustard

      Welcome to Labour’s First Rule of Politics – “Heads we win, tails you lose”.

      They are a gang of lying, dissembling charlatans only interested in gaining power by any means. A rotten bunch. And yet it is UKIP that gets the treatment.

    • Holly

      It will be very interesting to discover what the SIX Labour Home Secretaries did about anything, let alone this.

      We have a ‘rough’ idea what other Labour secretaries of state did on their watch, so why would the Home office, under Labour be any different.

      All in all, it is more than fair to say they did indeed perform the worst case in dereliction of duty than the last Labour lot in the ’70’s.

    • Peter Stroud

      Thank you for an excellent comment. Well done.

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