“We used to even worry as the Labour Party if we could commit to aiming for full employment. Now we’ve reached it. We have the lowest unemployment for 30 years.”
If he genuinely believes this, God help us. I recommend he downloads this table (click here) from his own department, memorises its most egregious points, and sees what “full employment” soundbite means in the real world. Scandalously, after ten years of growth, a quarter of Glasgow and Liverpool are on the dole (by which, I mean working-aged people on various out-of-work benefits). This is true for a fifth of Manchester, Newcastle and Birmingham. In smaller cities, it’s the same - Middlesbrough (24%), Hartlepool (24%) Blackpool (23%), Dundee (21%) Hastings (20%) Leicester and Doncaster (19%). All DWP data. Is this what Purnell calls full employment? And does he seriously think anyone in these cities believes him?
It’s the old alcoholics anonymous slogan – you have to recognise the problem to deal with the problem. Hutton, his old boss, certainly did. If Purnell genuinely wakes up thinking “yippee, we’ve achieved full employment in Britain” then he’ll accomplish nothing. If (as I suspect) he knows the phrase a statistical trick designed to mislead the public, then he should not put his name to it or he'll lose credibility as fast as Darling has. A fire is burning here. His job is to put it out.