David Cameron claims that the latest figures on the economy are proof of a “recovery for all”. Yet recovery still feels far away for millions of people in Britain.
And we’ll still be worse off at the 2015 election than when Cameron took office in 2010, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies.
The treasury says that everyone in Britain except the top 10 percent have seen their wages rise faster than inflation in the past year.
But that only holds for the Tories’ preferred consumer price index measure of inflation, not the old retail price index.
It follows years of wages going down in real terms, and they are still going down relative to important costs such as energy, food, transport, housing and education. Real wages have fallen by £1,600 a year under the Tories, Labour has calculated.
And wages tell only part of the story. They leave out the impact of years of benefit cuts and tax credits.
“I’m not better off,” Ellie, a family service worker in east London told Socialist Worker, “I’ve had a pay freeze for two years. I lost £75 from a cut in working tax credit.
“I now need housing benefit—I’m one of the scroungers the Tories go on about. But I don’t get a living wage. Everything’s gone up, the weekly shop, my rent. None of that has changed.”
The Tories also announced new figures for unemployment, which has fallen to 7.1 percent. The number of people out of work is falling faster than at any time since 1997. But again this masks a severe and growing problem for thousands of people.
Unemployment for young people is going down but 282,000 under-25s have been jobless for a year or more, the highest level since 1993.
Dave Prentis, general secretary of the public sector union Unison, rejected the Tories’ “spin”.
He said that the figures show that “average weekly earnings before tax rose by a paltry £3 between 2012 and 2013, which is little consolation for workers who have suffered from inflation growing faster than pay for the past five years.”
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls joined the fray when he announced last weekend that Labour would restore the 50p tax rate for the highest earners, those on £150,000 or more.
Bosses bleated that its return would lead people to take business abroad. Yet this was the tax rate in place until 2012.
Even some within Labour complained. But in case anyone was under the impression that Labour was on course to make the rich pay for the crisis, Balls assured bosses that it is a “pro-business party”.
And he promised that any future Labour government would carry out major cuts in public spending too.
The war of words on the recovery came in the week that the Rowntree Foundation published a damning report on income in Britain.
In contrast to the rosy view the Tories have been touting, this states that “the proportion of households living below the minimum income standard increased by a fifth between 2008/9 and 2011/12.” Most of this increase in poverty came in the most recent year of the study.
The study also exposed that the north south divide is not as simple as news reports make out.
More jobs have been created in London than other areas. Yet high costs mean that London is where “households face the greatest risk of being below the minimum income standard”.
Iain Duncan Smith lashes out
Tory minister Iain Duncan Smith used the news on jobs to pursue the other election themes of scapegoating benefit claimants and migrants.
He hailed the fact that 90 percent of new jobs were taken by “British citizens” as opposed to migrants.
He also said his attacks on welfare were part of an “historic mission” and even compared them to the campaign to end slavery.
He found time to demonise poor people in general too.
According to Duncan Smith, some people are poor because “the money that they get often goes in quite negative ways, drugs, alcohol”.
Nothing to do with cuts then.